Mark Riva

The ambient electro genre is usually associated with tropical playgrounds, not mountainous ones, which helps explains the title of this disc, as well as the name of veteran DJ Mark Riva's production company (Mango Beach International) and the fact that his label is headquartered in Miami. Since 2000, however, the well-traveled Riva has lived in Colorado, where he's spun records between freelance writing gigs, including one for Westword.

Nonetheless, the cool vibes found on Sungrooves, which is previewed at, have little to do with snowy climes or subzero temperatures. The platter fits solidly within the Ibiza-friendly chill-out tradition, blending fifteen tracks that seem to move at medium tempo or slower even on those occasions when the beats-per-minute ratio is relatively brisk. Riva favors numbers built upon skittering rhythms, creamy/jazzy instrumentation and the cooing of ethereal female vocalists: "Isabella Sunshine," by Cassady, featuring Staci Smith, provides the basic template. Songs such as "Shine On," by Dave Warrin, featuring Carol C., and Rivera Rotation's ultra-suave "Dedicado" stand out more than others, but showcasing specific tunes isn't Riva's goal. He's more interested in creating a seamless soundscape that takes both listeners and dancers on a quietly satisfying, worry-free journey.

In this respect, Riva succeeds. Overall, the nearly 79 minutes of Sungrooves is as pleasant as pleasant can be, in part because it avoids the modern Muzak trap into which such material can stumble. Still, in a marketplace that's been flooded with similar albums ever since the commercial and critical breakthrough of CDs issued under the Naked Music umbrella, there's little to set Riva's effort apart. Maybe adding a little more Colorado to the mix next time around would be a good idea.


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