Formed in somewhat Atoms For Peace-esque circumstances, Exploded View came together in 2014 when ‘UK-born, Berlin-based political-journalist-turned-musician’ Anika put a band together in Mexico to tour her solo work there, before finding that her and her new group, made up of local musicians and producers Martin Thulin, Hugo Quezada and Amon Melgarejo, had a natural chemistry that deserved to be committed to tape.
The resulting self-titled album, released on the ever reliable Sacred Bones label, is cut from similar cloth to Anika’s 2010 solo album – a collaboration with Portishead side project Beak – but is infinitely more accomplished and focused, and where that album relied largely on covers (including a solid, bass-heavy take on Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’), that’s not the case here, these tracks instead being born out of improvisation, hence the looping but structured repetition throughout, particularly on the drones and industrial bleeps of first single ‘No More Parties in the Attic’. Self-described as being “for fans of Can, dub, and political revolution”, Can are indeed an obvious reference point, particularly on the ‘Vitamin C’-esque groove of ‘Orlando’, but there are also glimmers of Broadcast in the laid back warped synths of tracks like ‘One Too Many’ – Anika’s vocals may be more Nico than Trish Keenan’s but you can imagine the latter singing some of these melodies. Such is her delivery that lyrics, although at times typically political, tend to pass by unnoticed on early listens, the voice feeling more like another instrument, icy and detached yet melodic and delivering coolly catchy choruses on ‘Gimme Something’ and opener ‘Lost Illusion’, a track that implores us to “Stop, look and observe…The reality of life/Obsessed with falling debt”.
The LP channels the spirit of Anika’s Berlin much more than the rest of the band’s native Mexico City, an amalgam of krautrock, post-punk, dance and other experimental art crafted with synths, drums, bass and heavily processed guitar, all pleasingly warped into a textured bed of sound. But what makes their sound all the more impressive is that what seems like the work of analogue instruments being digitally processed, manipulated and stitched together, is in fact the work of first takes recorded live onto a simple analogue 8 track recorder, a baffling feat that makes the prospect of seeing them live incredibly tantalising. Not bad work for a political journalist, really – it’s difficult to imagine Nick Robinson producing an album like this any time soon. We might keep our eye on Robert Peston though. Cathal McBride