ALBUM: Anika – ‘Change’

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

Lloyd Bolton
@lloyd_bolton

LISTEN: Gazelle Twin – ‘The Well’

A sinister, cinematic offering that chimes with a bleak beauty, Gazelle Twin aka Elizabeth Bernholz has shared her latest single ‘The Well’. Lifted from the official soundtrack for upcoming east-end based supernatural thriller The Power, the track is a spine-tingling offering from this multi-talented electronic music pioneer. The score will be released digitally on 8th April via Invada Records, with a vinyl release to follow.

Working alongside composer Max de Wardener to curate the score for the the film, which was written and directed by BAFTA nominated screenwriter Corinna Faith, ‘The Well’ is a piece of Bernholz’s solo vision that fitted the tone of The Power so well, it was added to the track-list without hesitation. “Working with Corinna and Max didn’t feel much like work,” Bernholz explains. “It was a long haul thrill, from our field trip to the derelict wing of Goodmayes Hospital to record squeaky trolleys and smashed pill bottles, to making countless experiments with samples, voice, and electronics, pushing them in every extreme direction we could think of. The results bring me a lot of joy. I hope the collaboration continues.”

Contrasting these samples with her sublime vocals and un-nerving electronics, Bernholz has enhanced the tension and claustrophobia that permeates Faith’s Victorian-set thriller, which follows nurse Val on her first round of night-shifts in an eerie London hospital ward. The Power will be available exclusively to stream on Shudder from 8th April.

Listen to ‘The Well’ below.

 

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Photo Credit: Victor Frankowski

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Divide and Dissolve – ‘Gas Lit’

An exhilarating, powerful assembly of sounds designed to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for indigenous communities, instrumental activists Divide and Dissolve‘s second album Gas Lit smoulders with a righteous fury. Produced by Ruban Neilson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the record is an aural purging of injustice, fuelled by the diversity of Takiaya Reed’s doom-ridden saxophone sounds and Sylvie Nehill’s phenomenal percussion. It’s the band’s first full length release since their 2018 album Abomination, and much like its predecessor it flows with a unique gargantuan grace.

Released via Invada Records, Gas Lit sees Divide and Dissolve continue their sonic mission to disrupt toxic white supremacy. Reed & Nehill’s sublime instinct for colossal drop-ins permeates their music and acts as a powerful weapon in the fight against inequality. These cathartic shifts in sound permeate Gas Lit, and opening track ‘Oblique’ is the first of many aural shockwaves to hit listeners. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but neither are the issues the band are confronting. Silence in a world of inequality is damaging, and Divide and Dissolve seek to shatter the illusions surrounding this. The intense grit of ‘Prove It’ continues to hammer this message home, with its pulverizing beats and caustic riffs.

The pensive spoken words of poet Minori Sanchiz-Fung on ‘Did You Have Something To Do With It’ bring to life a poignant question that underscores the record: “are [we] a part of this world / or its affliction?” It bleeds into the epic seven and a half minute ‘Denial’, which is a disorientating sonic whirlwind of thunderous riffs, ear-shattering percussion and uncanny saxophone notes. The visceral sounds on ‘Far From Ideal’ and ‘It’s Really Complicated’ beautifully embellish the band’s narrative charge against oppression and provide more riotous cacophonies to escape into.

On ‘Mental Gymnastics’ and ‘We Are Really Worried About You’ Reed flexes more of her extraordinary sax-playing muscles and her ear for intense riff distortion. On the latter, they’re combined with Nehill’s crashing cymbals to form a swirling vortex of cathartic dissonance, reiterating the band’s message that the sufferings of indigenous communities have evolved beyond what’s “recorded in stone / and in bone.” The resentment and need to overcome this is now so strong that – in the words of Minori Sanchiz-Fung – “language can’t console it.” Divide and Dissolve are here to give weight and validation to these voices, and Gas Lit is a majestic and moving effort to do so.

Pre-order your copy of Divide and Dissolve’s new album Gas Lit here.

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Photo Credit: Billy Eyers

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

LISTEN: Divide and Dissolve – ‘Denial’

An exhilarating, powerful soundscape that aims to erode the foundations of colonialism and liberate the land for black and indigenous communities, multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve have shared their latest single ‘Denial’. Taken from their upcoming album Gas Lit, which is set for release on 29th January 2021 via Invada Records, the track is an eerie cacophony of thunderous riffs, ear-shattering percussion and uncanny saxophone notes that aim to eradicate white supremacy.

“Sometimes we don’t need to talk in order for others to understand what’s going on,” the duo explain about their intense instrumentals. “We are communicating with our ancestors through the music. Our ancestors help us to communicate with each other on a deeper level as well. This deep connection is able to be achieved without words.” Through their blend of visceral noise and captivating visuals, Divide and Dissolve – formed of Takiaya Reed (Black & Tsalagi [Cherokee]) and Sylvie Nehill (Māori) – dismantle the social frameworks that prevent black and indigenous communities from thriving in an equal society.

The accompanying video for ‘Denial’ was shot in Taupo, Aotearoa by indigenous director Amber Beaton. “I’m a huge fan of Divide and Dissolve and so happy to have made this video for them,” Beaton explains. “I understand and appreciate the message behind the music and I wanted to make sure the video held the same intentions no matter how subtle.”

“For instance, we start off with a shot of a Kōwhai tree. Native to Aotearoa, Kōwhai in bloom signifies to Māori that some seafood is ready for harvest, the roots can be used to make fishing hooks, the sap on the sunny side of the tree can be used to heal wounds… but the vibrancy of the yellow flower was also the first thing Captain Cook saw when he arrived on the shores of Aotearoa signalling the start of colonial violence on this whenua/land. The changing colours of its flower in the video represents our change as a country and as people since that fateful arrival.”

Dedicated to shining a light on social injustices both past and present, Divide and Dissolve continue to demand equality on thunderous new offering ‘Denial’, which serves as another reminder of the duo’s talent for creating abrasive yet graceful soundscapes.

Listen to the track below.

 

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Photo Credit: Billy Eyers

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut