Dark pop is a niche genre at best, but thanks to a few indie artists, the genre whispers on in the shadows. Colorado-raised California-resident Roniit is no stranger to the undercurrents of the indie electropop and darkpop scene, and her newest record “XIXI” is less of a music album and more a contiguous journey through the wilderness of her subconscious.
The crickets overlaying the introduction to opening track “Noumenia” is a running theme throughout the album, and further pushes the notion that XIXI is a record to be consumed in one gulp, rather than sipping on it through the day, yet has an aftertaste that lingers long after its runtime. Every aspect on XIXI is akin to taking a deep plunge into her soul and psyche. The title itself pays homage to a numerology indicator that holds special revelationary meaning to Roniit. She mesmerizingly blends elements of synthpop, electropop, and even some EDM, all while lathering the listener with her trademark throaty whispers that carries heavy burdens.
Even though Roniit poked her head through the mainstream via her track “Runaway” featured on the movie The Loft, her music mostly travels through word of mouth and adopts a shorter release cycle, mostly singles and EPs, with XIXI being the first notable exception. For a debut LP, Roniit shows a mature heft which belies her indie status. As a personal favorite, “All I Need” is a tragic ode to regrettable loss and love forlorn. Her soaring appeal in the chorus “All I need, is a heart to claim, … and a place to lay” beckons to us all. She does her best work in these stripped-down vocals-over-strings ballads, and her approach to layered vocals adds further depth to an already heady motif. Through the entire record, her songs range from heavier dark pop as on “Purify” with bassy loops, to the piano-forward “Somnia” encompassing a wide array of moods while still maintaining the overarching theme of contemplative meandering. Through the entire record, her songs range from heavier dark pop as on “Purify” with bassy loops, to the piano-forward “Somnia” encompassing a wide array of moods while still maintaining the overarching theme of contemplative meandering. Album closer and title track XIXI, is nothing short of a fever dream in sonic form with long stretches of near-silent rustling interspersed with far-away ambience and acoustic arrangements and forms the perfect bookend to a dense adventure.
Very rarely is an album cover-art such a true-to-message effort, with Roniit’s self-potrait clutching at highly contrasting bright flowers jarring attention away from the somber darkness which adorns the rest of the piece. In the same way, there is a sense of foreboding throughout XIXI, the darkness not of evil, but rather of morose dejection. Yet just like the flowers, there is a strange level of beauty that cuts right through the sadness. If that was the tapestry she was trying to weave with XIXI, it was an absolute success.
Overall Rating: 8/10
Notable tracks: Purify, All I Need