Album review: Exploded View – Exploded View

John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.
John Preston

Exploded View’s most frank warning, one of several over the course of their self-titled record, comes at the end of the exasperated ‘One Too Many’.

‘I’ve seen too many men go down this road again, too many good men crumble….it won’t lead anywhere but six feet under’. It sets the tone perfectly for a record whose stance is frequently one of weary observer of a righteous and pitiful majority. Annika Henderson and her band claim to have recorded their eponymous debut album completely live and in one take: the songs here may sound a little ragged around the seams but at no point does the record appear unfinished or scrappy, on the contrary in fact. This is a record that has arrived fully formed and beautifully constructed, it’s purpose to smother and bewilder the listener in its dub-chambered and disturbing dream-like soundscape.

Whilst Exploded View make music that sounds naturally at home in 2016, nihilistic and foreboding, it is also like little else that’s currently being released. Annika Henderson has previously made one album under her first name and in collaboration with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. Released in 2010, the record was ghostly cover versions (including ‘I Go to Sleep’ made famous by the Pretenders and songs by Yoko Ono and Bob Dylan) and 2 original tracks. She sounds a lot like Neko still, and her dual German English nationality means that this isn’t as contrived as the trivialised attempts at this particular delivery that many artist have attempted over the decades. Deadpan and androgynous, Henderson’s vocals appropriately dwell in a foggy and rough-shod eighties soundscape where Siousie Sioux, Bauhaus, PiL and Private Life-era Grace Jones collide, nocturnal and just out of tangible reach.

‘No More Parties In the Attic’ is avant-garde electro pop with a persistent and squealing squeaky-hinge siren with returns in the surreal and racing krautrock of ‘Disco Gloves’, (‘Robert De Nero in his disco glove’) with both tracks demonstrating a ghoulish sense of fun. The beatless grey shimmer of ‘Lark Descending’ is more serious and questions the influx of patronising protesters: ‘Do you really know what it means to march for your brothers with their feet beneath the sheets? I just hope you never do’.

‘Call on the Gods’ features a post-punk military march of speeding monotone chants which are almost impossible to to decipher adding to the disorientation and anarchic mood.

Annika Henderson and Exploded View have made an album for the times, chaotic and extreme and only far too aware that at this point, intervention is near pointless. One of this year’s best.