When Frederic Riviere says something along the lines of “the sun and the sea are really important to me,” it’s easy to think, ‘Oh great, another chillwave artist who enjoys long walks on the beach and sitting on the dock of the bay all day.’
If only things were that simple. While he’s certainly into laser-guided synth lines and sepia-toned nostalgia trips, Riviere’s debut album as Anoraak (Wherever the Sun Sets) is more indebted to Italo disco, Motown-schooled funk and sepia-toned pop music—think: M83 on Ecstasy—than anything that’s lo-or-glo-fi. Which makes sense. After all, it’s not like the French producer/singer/multi-instrumentalist picked up his first battery-powered keyboard yesterday. Truth be told, Anoraak began as a bedroom-based project about eight years ago, as Riviere searched for sound engineer work and found nothing but bar gigs.
“Everyone is an engineer in Paris,” he explains. “It’s like coming to L.A. and trying to be an actor.”
Riviere reached a breaking point soon enough, after his role in several indie rock bands started to feel like “just another job.” Determined to find his calling in the West of France, Riviere joined his old friends in Nantes (a city Time once called the most livable spot in all of Europe) and helped launch the Valerie collective/blog. Before he knew it, Riviere was channeling his childhood on the Nightdrive With You EP, a buzz-stirring attempt at everything from moon-lit club music (the title track) to Boards of Canada-inspired IDM (“Endless Summer”).
“They make really deep music,” Riviere says, referring to the legendary Warp duo, “songs that make you feel good and bad at the same time.”
Similar traces of melancholy slip into Wherever the Sun Sets (see: the richly-layered instrumental loops of “Midnight Sunset”) as well. But let’s be honest—it’s a feel-good full-length for the most part., a seamless blend of live and programmed elements that’s essentially an electronic take on the SoCal rock LPs (Weezer, That Dog) that Riviere loved as a kid growing up in the South of France (the Medieval city where Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was filmed, if you must know). SoCal in spirit, at least, as standout tracks like “Try Me” and “Long Hot Summer Night” absolutely nail the essence of being on a beach without a care in the world. And then there’s “Don’t Be Afraid” and “Dolphins & Highways,” a pair of from-dusk-’til-dawn ballads that feature an alt-disco diva (Sally Shapiro) and Scottish folk singer (Siobhan Wilson) respectively.
“It’s a back-to-the-‘80s vibe that has no boundaries,” Riviere explains. “If something’s cheesy, it’s cheesy. I have no problem with that, so long as it moves you.”