Much of RUI HO‘s music has been centered around the complexity of personal journeys forward through space and life. On earlier EPs Becoming Is an Eventful Situation and In Pursuit of the Sun 逐日, the Berlin-based DJ drew on her experiences as a trans woman and an immigrant, building intense club pieces on laser-focused electronics and sharp beats. It’s this history of frenetic mechanics that makes new full-length album Lov3 & L1ght feel so triumphant. Marked by moments of bliss, this installment is no less sonically intense than any of the artist’s past installments. Still, it feels infinitely more ecstatic, a bright infusion of sugary electropop into the RUI HO catalog.
An atmospheric glow opens the album on “Hikari”, bathing the listener in light before pulling back in favor of round, synthesized raindrops that leave space for the artist’s first phrases as a singer. As a producer, she sculpts her sound, tuning it, merging it with pitch-shifting machinery in ways that take it to uncanny heights. She takes on the track with the emotional weight of a veteran cyborg balladeer, bringing it from its boundless, celestial start to a glorious, truthful end.
True joy, though, comes in the form of “Exodus ’12”, a clear reference to perennial Japanese pop goddess Utada’s “Exodus ’04”. Like the latter, the former is an ode to breaking free from hometown to a wider world, with RUI HO cycling through verses to refrains of “Nothing can stop me / I’m getting on that plane / Watch me go for miles.” The nostalgia of invoking Utada’s iconic anthem of liberation in creating her own is a brilliant move on RUI HO’s part; a crystalline melody makes the track truly transcendent.
Not every sentiment is so simple and clean. There is pain here, too, “The Way I Am” longing for the chance to get close and “Right Now”, scorning disingenuousness and toxic cruelty over cutting rhythms. The low end of “Lucky Strike” is ready to rumble through a whole crowd. In refreshing contrast, “Send for Me” has an easy, breezy, tropical aura to it, RUI HO’s voice in gently swaying syncopation to soothing beats. Even in the yearning of “Hundred Thousand Ways”, and the tension of “Fire Walk With Me” is an uplifting clarity. Like-minded cybersinger Golin brings her own mechanically enhanced voice to bear on “Leave”, a perfect fit and the album ends on a melancholy note with “Tired of Me”.
RUI HO works with a soundscape so electronic that the deliberate nature of its crafting makes it hyper human. Her self-styled, bionic voice a perfect addition to the futuristic scene. There is something almost divine about how she wields total control over her sonic realm, from digital drums (the hi-hats on “Fire Walk With Me” are as earthy as it gets) to synthesized melodies and beyond. Even in its most frenzied moments, the slickness of Lov3 & L1ght‘s production makes it feel serene. Heavenly sonic colors flow freely in RUI HO’s artistic sanctuary, and the view from the audience is one of sheer euphoria.