It’s 2016. According to social media and the TV news, if you still watch such a thing, the United States is in decline. Growing inequality, live streamed police shootings, a grotesque Presidential campaign that is being rubbernecked in horror by those who will be in the blast radius of it’s outcome. One of the candidates, an obscenely wealthy racist who lacks the ideology to even be correctly labelled a fascist, made a promise years back to build a wall on the US/Mexican border. He still hasn’t disavowed this plan, much to the delight of white nationalists and the disgust of everyone else. South of the border, and soon to be behind the aforementioned structure, in an arty, residential area just off of the hipster epicentre of Mexico City, music is made. A British born German based political journalist enters the recording studio with a band made up of three Mexican producers. They record an album of improvised material; the first take IS the finished track. It sounds like a scenario from a Cohen Brothers movie but it’s not. This is Exploded View and it’s very real.
Exploded View are Anika, Martin Thulin, Amon Melgarejo and Hugo Quezada. Anika is a journalist turned singer songwriter who has in the past collaborated with Geoff Barrow of Portishead. Anika met her bandmates during a solo tour of Mexico. The Krautrock and dub influences of her solo work are in evidence here, while the band pulls her towards a more airy, post punk sound. Each track seems structured to act as a backdrop to Anika’s cold, deadpan delivery. With her Germanic accent, Nico is an obvious comparison. This is as if Nico fronted Can in 1968 rather than the Velvet Underground. Each piece is built around a beat or a groove on which Anika can display her narratives, more akin to graffiti on a wall rather than images on canvass. Opening track ‘Lost Illusions’ starts off with the thrum of a spy movie soundtrack while the drums flutter like fireflies all around Anika’s sloganeering. ‘One Too Many’ is early hours desolation, descending guitar notes and sad synth tweets. ‘Orlando’, by contrast, sparkles and shimmies, edging close to electro pop, like a more restrained Chromatics. (The track was recorded before the recent tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida).
‘Call On The Gods’ is one of the albums plain weirder pieces. This track wears more openly the influences of the experimental rock made in Germany in the 70’s, a repeated, simplistic riff and a thudding drum beat. A few verses in, Anika begins to intone so quickly it’s as if she is speaking in tongue. ‘You can’t make it on your own’ being a noticeable, repeated refrain. As a curious addition, as the track fades out, a burst of a seemingly discarded piece fades in, a savage Michael Karoli-like guitar backs snatches of an Anika rant. It ends too soon. Although what we get next delivers on that promised violence. ‘Disco Glove’ thrashes along at a demented pace, reminiscent of the proto-punk cuts by Neu! The juxtaposition between this and the near monotone vocal delivery is chilling. The feverish image of Robert De Niro the voyeur ‘jacking off’ will stay with you. Debut single ‘No More Parties In The Attic’ remains seductive and sinister in equal measures. The album ends on an exhausted, despairing note. ‘Killjoy’ barely get’s into gear until a minute from the end when it resembles the sound of furniture being hurled down the stairs. The detachment in Anika’s vocals sounds like an end of the tether sob, utterly spent.
‘Exploded View’ is a spiky, addictive and, at times, a surprisingly emotional album. It fits Sacred Bones already-weird, fringe-y roster like a (disco) glove. Repeated listens reveal new hidden sounds and imagery missed on previous spins. If you like your experimental music dark, rhythmic and sometimes danceable, you’re in luck.
‘Exploded View’ is out on August 19th via Sacred Bones