Album Reviews

Riva Starr – If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

(Made To Play) UK release date: 1 February 2010


Riva Starr - If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade Stefano Miele, AKA Riva Starr, has had something of a stellar rise to fame off the back of a string of top notch remixes and releases on key dance labels such as Made To Play, Dirtybird, Kindisch and Southern Fried. He’s quickly garnered the support of big chiefs such as Claude Von Stroke, Annie Mac, Ricardo Villalobos and Carl Cox, to name but a few.

Across the 11 tracks of If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade, Miele makes a smash and grab tour of the history of modern dance music. From the polka/waltz rhythm of Black Cat White Cat to the hip shaking latino rhythms of Caballeros, it’s no surprise Villalobos is a fan; there’s certainly more than a nod to the super star of nu latino hypno house.

Bulgarian Chicks takes the world beat tour to a six minutes stop off for some deep Balkan beat grooves. The slightly helium-ified female vox samples recall M.I.A.‘s globe straddling world party vibe and the lounge gypsy sax lines intertwine over the 4/4 Bulgarian shuffle. Album opener I Was Drunk sets the tone for the global festivale with killer cut up gypsy accordion samples and the classic line “I was drunk in some club, with some chicks, I’m not sure who came back with me”.

Moving on to China Gum, we get what sounds like horror film sound effects and an acid beat with a dubstep leaning; Miele certainly knows how to mix things up. Chilled tracks, such as In Naples, recall the more ambient moments from Vitalic‘s OK Cowboy. What could almost be an Ennio Morricone sample sat over a trip hop shuffle makes this a chill out room essential.

Dance Me, featuring rapper TRIM, calls to mind Leftfield and Roots Manuva‘s 1999 collaboration Dusted From The Rhythm And Stealth album, all deep squelchy bass lines and hushed half rapped vox. Sounding more south London than Bulgarian world beat, Riva’s Boogaloo takes things on a jazzy tip, with a classic off beat boogaloo piano edit and a driving tech house beat that he blends with some ace live drums.

The album closes with Tribute, which is presumably a tribute to the Chicago veterans. It’s a fitting end to a great rummage through modern dance music’s history, ending at the beginning. Despite the disparate sources of inspiration Miele draws from, he manages to infuse his work with a good natured, natural understanding of the dance floor that will inevitably keep crowds moving all through his summer of festivals. It’s easy to see why he bears the mantle of the new Derrick Carter. Riva Starr is definitely one to watch; if he’s playing at a town near you, get along, for it’ll be a world beat tech house party par excellence.


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Riva Starr – If Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade