Ten years is a long time. At least relative to our existence it is, and as artists and audiences, that amount of time can do a lot to shape, change, and sometimes settle our personal tastes and creative anxieties. Change is Anika‘s follow up to her 2010 self-titled LP, and in the time since that debut, she’s invested her time in other projects, most notably two Exploded View albums. And in that time her approach has only evolved into something more curiously abstract.
Anika’s vocals here are unassuming, yet guided by a throatiness juxtaposed with often sparse instrumentation, blending arrangements of minimalist percussion with bright electronics, her voice cooly seizing every verse and chorus. “Critical” has a sonic palette of jazz breaks and dub fashioned leads, which are bulldozed at times by her own quiet voice, its power arguably the most important accent to the track.
As expected, there’s an experimental arc throughout, noticeably on “Sand Witches” in which Anika’s dulcet tones are exchanged for a sprawling spoken word endeavor. Some of the tones, harmonies, and dynamics found within border on the avant garde, but take a more restrained approach, showing a fascination now for diligence, composure and process that wasn’t as present on her debut.
On Change, Anika skews far from being as introspective as possible, often revealing on its surface an immediate theme, or concept. The title track is flecked with keyboards oscillating during its chorus as Anika sings the simplest of truths: “We could do well to listen sometimes and not just shout around/about things we know nothing about.” At the same time the album offers glimmers of hope, but it’s hard to deny that there’s something else there, perhaps not directly said but rather implied. A specific sonic unease creeps into almost every single song, making one wonder if there’s some glimmer of doubt made manifest not in Anika’s lyrics, but rather in the song itself, a trilling piano, a scratchy and ominous electronic, or a cracking wave of static.
Compositionally, Anika’s latest batch of songs is strong, especially tracks like “Freedom,” which feature a brilliant analogue synth sound, clipping along popping electronics and ambient textures that transform against a propulsive bassline. Anika’s vocals here don’t seem to offer a range befitting to the track, but rather function as an orchestrator to the echoing noise. That range, that power is on full display at the album’s end, in which “Wait for Something” revels in its simplicity, its tranquility, its stripped down minimalism.
Change is an album that observes the boundaries of a multitude of sounds and styles, at times circumspect, at others cavalier and efficient. Its range is one that is equally as difficult to square. That’s what makes it so refreshing, an album that’s personal, written not within the boundaries of a label’s whims, or for consistency’s sake, but one that was written for when the time was right.
Label: Sacred Bones