Exploded View‘s debut album is one of the strongest examples in recent memory of the power of spontaneous, collaborative creativity. The combined work of British-born singer Anika and Mexico City-based musicians Martin Thulin, Hugo Quezada and Amon Melgarejo, Exploded View is a work of dark magic, the sounds of no wave disco, post-punk, industrial, drone and art rock having been produced in loose, largely improvised sessions. That it isn’t the work of endless studio tinkering or unnecessary overdubs is palpable—it’s an album in which nothing feels normal but everything sounds great, no doubt the result of a team of creative minds following where their weirdest muses would take them.
It also led the musicians to want to create more. Released just a little over a year after that stellar debut album, Summer Came Early is a continuation of the psychedelic explorations of the band’s first full-length. Comprising four songs in 13 minutes, it’s considerably more concise, but the band makes the most of their time, largely casting aside some of the noisier or more dirge-like exercises in favor of a set of hallucinogenic pop songs that carry just the faintest hint of danger and doom. There’s something of a hint in the title: “Summer Came Early,” the track, is both accessible and otherworldly, mining the textures of peak Warp Records material a la Boards of Canada and Broadcast for a pulsing pop gem. But its narrative is quietly ominous. When Anika sings “We just sat on our porches and didn’t question a thing,” it’s clear that those benign rising temperatures are the very same things that could lead to Earth’s undoing.
Darkness is inherent to Exploded View’s songs, if in large part because Anika—previously a journalist—has a keen eye for observation. But by and large these are fun songs to listen to, with lots of playful elements going on. “Forever Free” is a spacious ambient pop track propelled by factory-floor percussive clacks, while “Mirror of the Madman” carries traces of ’60s-era Pink Floyd. “You Got a Problem Son” is one of the strongest of the bunch, full of guitar scratch and one-note bass grooves. It’s ultimately up to Anika to drive the song’s melody, and yet even in her minimal approach, she lends it an almost paradoxical catchiness and immediacy. It’s reflective of the same dark magic that drove the band’s debut. All of these things on paper might not necessarily seem all that remarkable, but the way they come together results in a sonic creation with few peers.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.