“Selectadisc” – Ronika

4 stars (out of 5)

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SelectadiscNottingham-based Ronika has fashioned her debut album, named after the now closed record shop that stocked her essential loves and obsessions, after three crucial but somewhat lesser known albums made in the early part of the 1980s. Shannon’s “Let The Music Play”, Gwen Guthrie’s “Portrait” and, to a lesser extent, Cristina’s “Doll in the Box”. That’s electro-pop, disco, freestyle and boogie with some arch knowingness thrown in for the hell of it. American dance music made at a time of racial and sexual revolutions; soul music to linger in between the wink and kiss-off attitude, when people danced like it would save their lives. Ronika seems to get this relationship intrinsically and her album is one that also has a slightly unhinged quality which cements a clear persona and her mix of the old and new is wonderfully realised and, when it’s at its strongest, still fresh sounding.

Recorded over a four-year period, “Selectadisc” features some material already heard on Ronika’s previously-released and well-received EPs and it’s some of the best music here. “In the City” is a fantastic song, a smoothly rolling ode to metropolitan night-time living; it gets under your skin and under your feet and is the kind of record that should have been huge and at one time would have been. “Video Collection”, “What’s in your Bag” and “Forget Yourself” are reminiscent of a Tom Tom Club/Gwen Stefani type of camp pop and are all essential. The two duets with Charles Washington, “Clock” and “Paper Scissors Stone” show a more experimental showy side and “1000 Nights” trips itself up only because it is very nearly a facsimile of Shannon’s tensely terrific “Give Me Tonight” and even then it’s still enjoyable enough. Ronika’s voice has occasional flashes of very early Teena Marie soulfulness but is smoother and less dramatic; make no mistake she can sing and comparisons to an early Madonna, at least vocally, sell her short.

With her arresting, canny and playful image Ronika falls into a category of idiosyncratic women who adore and emulate different forms of dance pop and understand the aesthetic of late eighties MTV. She is in good company with the likes of Annie, Roisin Murphy and the newly refreshed Kyla La Grange and displays an ability to write songs that are not only instant but those which also develop into lifelong soundscapes that accompany moments of invaluable dance-floor escapism.  All of the really important dance music has done this, whatever the sub-genre and “Selectadisc” has a high count of great songs and a fun but involved groove grounding the majority. Ronika will be around for some time, it appears; her devotion to making and performing music seems inescapable and is irresistible. The UK dance scene -- if such a thing still really exists -- should welcome her with open arms.