Words Jay Fullarton (@jaymfullarton)
On ‘Un/limited Love’ George Riley is a jack of all trades and a master of all. She rides different waves across each snappy tune, tastefully paying homage whilst traversing through different electronic sounds without difficulty.
Through lending her distinctive raspy vocals to euphoric club-ready cuts like Anz’s ‘U Could Be’ and alternative electronica like SBTRKT’s ‘L.F.O’, in addition to her own razor-sharp, club-inflected music, George Riley has made a name for herself as one of the UKs most promising acts to watch. The Shepherd’s Bush songstress’ last full-length mixtape saw her team up with highly sought after, heavyweight producer Vegyn, and it perfectly tail-ended the summer with blissful strings, jungle nods, and plaintive melodies.
Her new EP, Un/limited Love sees her demonstrate this electronic-leaning expertise further, enlisting the help of iconic electronic figures like Loraine James, Actress, and even Hudson Mohawke to bring her entrancing visions of the dancefloor to wax. Across this tight set of tracks, she seasons her salient vocals with brazen breakbeats, 2-step drums, and ambient clubscapes. It’s got personality in abundance, detached from her alt R&B/neo soul-tinged projects, and an addictively sugary EP in its own right.
Opener ‘Lust’ is absent of electronic hectivity – it soothes with lush strings and affectionate lullabies. “To your love I’m open / could coast through the ocean” Riley narrates, starting us off with some TLC before the intense come-up of highlights ‘Skin’ and ‘Elixir’. The former is exceptionally turned on, teeming with sex-fuelled, intoxicated lines like, “Early hours of the morning into ecstasy / press up on me”. The Crystal Waters' adjacent keys give the baby-making anthem a powerful bounce, capturing the drug-driven bliss of an impulsive one-night stand.
‘Elixir’ on the other hand, in the most complimentary way, feels like a cheap, seedy nightclub filled with smokescreens and flickering red lights. The reverberating claps and bordering-on-cheesy hook - “Your love is an elixir / giving me life” - recall that of overplayed Y2K dance music, but its lovelorn lyrics, resonant bass hits and sparse, trickling synths are so incredibly moreish. It’s another nocturnal sex odyssey that would lend itself wonderfully to a thumping sound system in the early hours.
Hudson Mohawke hammers the acceleration with the frenzied stress of ‘S e x’. The track sounds raunchy at first, but despite the title there’s something much darker lurking in the lyrical content, with Riley penning lines like, “We ain’t Jerry and Elaine, you’re my abuser / but still you want S E X”. Synths riot amongst the crackling breakbeats, even as she’s calling out the toxicity of a past love interest. It’s perfectly idiosyncratic and off-kilter, and despite the looming darkness of the subject matter, it still sounds destined for parties and DJ sets.
Brimming with honey-throated, husky vocals, ‘Star’ feels super old school, almost grime-like, in its syncopated instrumental. It would certainly make sense given her London roots. ‘Satisfy You’ is one hell of a final moment and has a similar disjointed rhythm that calls back to the UK’s 2000s rap lineage. The wild energy on display captures the giddying anxiety of approaching a warehouse rave or crowded party, feeling the vibration of muffled bass and pounding drums before your senses are rattled the second you set foot inside. It wraps things up wondrously on this short but sweet care package.
On ‘Un/limited Love’ George Riley is a jack of all trades and a master of all. She rides different waves across each snappy tune, tastefully paying homage whilst traversing through different electronic sounds without difficulty. The tracks here feel equally sexy and dingy; both glittery and dirty, like smudged makeup and dried sweat after a night out. Riley is clearly one of the most exciting newcomers in the UK's already thriving alt R&B/neo soul scene, but she’s less afraid to get her hands dirty than most of her peers.