Album Review: Anika’s Anika EP

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Anika

Anika EP

Stones Throw Records

Release Date: April 16, 2013

Track Listing

  1. I Go To Sleep
  2. He Hit Me
  3. Love Buzz
  4. In The City
  5. No One’s There (dub)
  6. Yang Yang (dub)

Before her seemingly unlike turn as a vocalist, Anika spent her professional career as a political journalist living in Berlin and Bristol, UK when she had met producer, Geoff Barrow, famously known for his work in Portishead. At the time Barrow was seeking a vocalist to work with his new band Beak> for a potentially new project. And when Barrow first met Anika, they both quickly recognized a shared love of punk, dub and 60s girl groups. About a week later, Barrow, the members of Beak> and Anika went into the studio to record new material with the hopes of catching lighting in a bottle, 12 days later, the result was Anika’s critically praised debut effort, an album recorded with no overdubs – in other words, completely live with the entire band in the same room with the vocalist. After the release of her debut full-length, Barrow, the members of Beak>, and Anika went into the studio to record an EP of (mostly) covers; however, with the exception of one track, the others are sadly kind of obscure – unless you really dug 60s girl groups, and other pop ephemera.

   Sonically, the material on the Anika EP bears some similarity to Portishead in the sense that it’s murky, mysterious, unsettling and yet incredibly seductive. Whereas Portishead’s Beth Gibbons’s vocals seemed to capture a woman on the brink of a breakdown (especially on Third), Anika’s plaintive, smoky speak-singing vocals express a desperate, urgent longing – a longing so deep, so desperate that it’s a physiological need. Their rendition of the Kinks’ “I Go To Sleep” is lovelorn and weary. Its narrator seems to recognize that the only way to get her (in this case) object of affection is through her own sad dreams. With a throbbing, insistent bass and stomping drumbeat, their cover of the Crystals’ “He Hit Me” feels claustrophobic, and smothering while capturing the disturbing violence and dysfunction at the heart of the narrator’s relationship – a relationship in which the woman is proudly pushing her man to violence to prove his love. Their cover of Shocking Blue’s “Love Buzz” sounds much like an obsessed lover’s desperate pleas to a neglectful, absent-minded lover. I somehow fell in love when Anika sings with lustful abandon “Would you believe me, when I tell you/You’re the king of my dreams? “I need you like desert needs rain/I should rather like to die/Darling, I hurt when I do not see you” she later sings with an odd phrasing that makes her sound as though she were saying that with a knife to her throat. Their cover of Chromatics’ “In the City” retains its danceable, four on the floor feel but Anika’s version feels much more anxious, murkily opaque and yet sexier than it’s original. It captures a hidden sense of menace and turmoil beneath the surface. The last two songs on the album are dub versions of previously released singles. “No One’s There” sounds like the nihilist’s call to arms. There’s no one watching you and as Anika shouts near the bridge “I know how the system works – and it doesn’t!”

   The Anika EP continues Stones Throw Records’ reputation for releasing the work of forward-thinking artists who actively challenge listeners’ expectations while blurring genre lines as much as possible. But the EP reminds listeners that as a producer Geoff Barrow can create some of the most deeply, unsettling and danceable music of the last 15 years, while introducing us to the unusual yet profoundly compelling vocals of Anika (whose voice oddly enough, bears an uncanny resemblance to Nico). Much like the Orb and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s incredible collaboration, The ORBSERVER in the star house, the Anika EP sounds unlike anything else released so far this year. Sure, it’s strange but it’s compelling and forces the need for repeated listens. 

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