Moving beyond the punishing sounds and default to doom-saying that’s often defined her previous work, Berlin-based musician Anika‘s new album Change is a more positive cut, possessing some of her most accessible work yet. Set for release via Sacred Bones & Invada Records on 23rd July, the album is not without its jagged, angsty moments, but on the whole it’s certainly a cleaner offering.
Fans of the musician’s existing output – a 2010 solo debut performed alongside Beak> and a string of releases with Exploded View – will recognise the blueprint of locked drum & bass grooves, noisy synths and Anika’s haunting voice floating above it with a cracked serenity that feels as though it could collapse into tears or hysterical laughter at any moment. The key sonic difference with Change is its polished quality, which lends a new refinement and approachability to Anika’s work. At times it feels a little too neat, lacking that terrifying, paint-stripping howl that makes for the best Exploded View tracks. Having said that, it opens up a new side to Anika, one that many will want to hear more from.
Anika reports that the words on Change were written largely “on the spot”, going some way to explaining the recourse to simple yet enigmatic refrains, felt most urgently on tracks like the thunderous opener ‘Finger Pies’ and the disquieting ‘Rights’. Her willingness to employ a smoother set of sounds allows for some unexpectedly great pop moments. ‘Critical’ is lead by a neat synth line that could have come straight from Jane Weaver’s Modern Cosmology, wonderfully plucking the song from the murk of a driving rhythm section.
‘Change’ is an excellent track, epitomising the huge shift Anika makes as an artist on this record. It offers a guarded optimism in its hedged refrain “I think we can change” and tempers the album’s concerns about the destructive nature of man, articulated on tracks like ‘Never Coming Back’ (inspired by Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring and our destruction of the natural world), enabling us to find consolation in our agency as individuals to avert future consequences of human activity. It is telling that ‘Change’ is the eponymous track and that its central idea was chosen to be the defining theme of the album, creating room for a more sanguine outlook.
The album closes with ‘Wait for Something’, which, like ‘Change’, plays a crucial role in forging the overall mood of the piece. Emerging out of the claustrophobic terror of ‘Freedom’, we are encouraged to find solace in its vagueness, in the belief that some salvation will come, even if we cannot conceptualise the form it might take. People often draw the obvious and not entirely helpful comparison between Anika and Nico, but as the drums kick in here it feels more like we’re listening to the Velvet Underground’s Loaded, pushing us into the realm of unadulterated pop rock. Sitting on those flying keys and cymbal crashes, listeners can really feel the joyous optimism Anika seeks to leave them with.
Sonically drifting away from brutal electro-terror and thematically more positive than earlier efforts, Anika’s Change is an interesting transitional album in sound and spirit, not entirely comfortable in its optimism, but telling for its willingness to seek it out.
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Photo Credit: Sven Gutjahr