As the opening salvo Party Over Here goes about its business it is easy to get the feeling that you have heard all of this before but then Take Me Now comes along. By then you will have tuned your ear to the finer points of the album, to what’s going on under the surface and you realise that there is something slightly odd and off kilter about the programmed beats behind the vocal. The next thing you know strange and exotic middle eastern riffs are running around, exchanging their sonic moves with rock guitars and now your original appraisal of being firmly in familiar musical territory has to be quickly put to bed. At that point its best to start the album from the beginning again and listen with fresh ears and an open mind.
Tropika may, on the surface at least, be just another collection of euphoric dance floor groovers, and indeed it is but unlike its contemporaries, Von Rushton has a way of weaving unusual musical threads through the usual clubland templates. And if tracks like Take You Down play to expectations, and there’s nothing wrong with that, the album as a whole pursues any number of different directions from its vibrant dance-pop core.
Be My Escape plays with chilled modern R&B, a wonderful mix of electro-reggae grooves, ambient dance melodies and confident beats and I Might Hit the Club takes the modern obsession with skittering trap percussion and rap deliveries but shrouds them in a brooding and emotive finish. Taking something that is often a fairly unoriginal genre and building it into something totally fresh and exciting.
There is even room for soulful dream pop with I Wanna Know Your Name, a brilliant revival of the golden age of soul made over for the modern and more discerning club goer and Firefly is a hushed and harmonious slice of ambient pop.
For an album I went into thinking, “here we go again” Tropika not only covers a lot of ground but does a lot of sonic landscaping along the way. This is not just someone visiting various genres, this is the sound of someone updating them for a whole new audience. The familiarity lies in the raw materials not the finished design in the same way that when you study the sleek lines and beautiful demeanour of an iconic building you don’t look at the individual bricks but marvel at what they have been shaped into. Tropika might be formed of the same building blocks as its rivals, however, where for those competitors it might result in perfectly functional music, practical sounds that gets the job done, Tropika is nothing less than awe-inspiring sonic architecture writ large.