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British dance producer Henry Smithson, best known as Riton, has released tracks in a wide variety of styles, ranging from dusty downtempo to quirky electro, as well as more explicitly club-ready bangers. Initially emerging as a moody trip-hop producer at the very end of the 1990s, his debut full-length, Beats du Jour, appeared on the Rae & Christian-associated Grand Central label in 2001. This was followed by the punky electro-funk of 2004's Homies and Homos, and Riton's subsequent music only became more party-centric from there. By the early 2010s, he had become a mainstay of the electro-house/EDM scene, with releases on Ed Banger, Dim Mak, and OWSLA, and he scored a major hit with his 2016 single "Rinse & Repeat."
Like many before him, Henry Smithson's career in dance music began in 1990s dance culture and the long trips up and down the country to the Renaissance raves, prompting him to launch his own promotions closer to his home in Newcastle. His appearances in the city and subsequent networking spawned the Switch record label, whose releases eventually made the record bag of Manchester hip-hop patriarch Mark Rae. Rae subsequently offered Smithson a job at his Fat City record shop in Manchester and an outlet for his solo material as Riton (a diminutive of "Henri," the French form of Smithson's first name) on the accomplished Grand Central imprint. Although at first glance the brew of soul, R&B, and house of the resultant debut long-player Beats du Jour in 2001 seemed some distance from his contemporaries at the label, Smithson's consistently growling low end and Funkadelic-inspired keys provided the all-important link to hip-hop.
His 2004 follow-up, Homies and Homos, also on Grand Central, veered slightly off the path beaten by his debut and instead drew inspiration from the then-prevalent electro funk acts, and featured a cover of the Cure's Camus-inspired single "Killing an Arab."
Riton's second career as a reputable remixer was well-established by this point, after working with Scissor Sisters, the Human League, and Soulwax, amongst many others. He continued to put out remixes throughout the noughties, most notably for M.I.A. and Chromeo, and he also released a pair of singles with Primary 1 in 2009. However, it wasn't until 2011 that he found the time to put out some solo material under the Riton moniker once again. The coincidentally titled "Dark Place"/"A.C.P." was released shortly after the tragic and sudden death of his Carte Blanche partner DJ Mehdi, with whom Riton had produced one of the biggest-selling releases on Ed Banger, Carte Blanche's "Gare du Nord."
Riton understandably kept a reasonably low profile in the year following the accident, until he reemerged in 2013 with the four-track EP Lost My Mind, a track from which boasted a cameo from French electroclash stalwart Miss Kittin. Another EP, still with the Ed Banger label, was to follow -- 2014's Bad Guy RiRi, a release that further cemented the marriage of Riton's funk and soul sensibilities with the Ed Banger label's muscular French house sound so heavily associated with popular mid-2000s electro acts like Mr. Oizo and Justice.
Meanwhile, in late 2015, another of Smithson's collaborative projects, Die Verboten, released the confusingly titled LP 2007, so-called because of when the material was recorded (and subsequently shelved for the next eight years). The group, which consisted of Riton alongside 2ManyDJs brothers David and Stephen Dewaele and designer Fergus "Fergadelic" Purcell, aptly described the record's early Kraftwerk-inspired cosmic jams as space rock, due to the live drums, bass, and synths having played such a prominent part in the music. At that time, this project seemed to have deeply influenced Riton, as his alternative alias Eine Kleine Nacht Musik surfaced in 2008 with a heavily Krautrock-infused self-titled album.
Riton's in-demand remixing and producing work continued to flow -- his 2015 co-production on Mark Ronson's Daffodils, featuring Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, is one such notable example -- as well as touring with Ronson on the 2014 Back to Back tour. The 2016 release of his own tech-house banger "Rinse & Repeat," which featured Lagos/New York vocalist Kah-Lo, was extremely well received, garnering widespread airplay and the number one spot on the BBC Radio 1 dance chart for several weeks. The song was also nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 2017 Grammy Awards. Kah-Lo also appeared on several subsequent Riton singles, including "Betta Riddim," "Fake ID," and "Ginger." Riton also produced "Deeper," a gospel-infused 2017 collaboration with MNEK, and co-produced "Only Can Get Better," a 2018 track by Mark Ronson and Diplo's Silk City project. In October 2018, Riton and Kah-Lo returned with "Bad Boy," one of several collaborations they made that year. ~ Kingsley Marshall & Simon Spreyer
- 13 Sep 1978
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