Exploded View is a mind-blowing musical collaboration with global roots, which grew out of Mexico City. The group’s debut is an album of first-takes, improvisation, and brilliance. Released last month by Sacred Bones Records, Exploded View’s impromptu sound is like Mexico City itself: beautifully raw with a past as magnificent as its future, but without the gastrointestinal distress or respiratory infections that might make you run to Doctor Simi. Exploded View mixes punk sounds with an of experimental style of rock music associated with German groups of the 1970s called Krautrock. Krautrock is characterized by improvisation and strong, hypnotic rhythms.
Like at a basement party, “Lost Illusions” tugs at your shirt from behind while you’re talking to someone else. Once you habituate to the surreal soundscape of the background, the vocals and percussion bring a sense of coherence to the song. “Lost Illusion” has a frenetic energy that is funneled into a central message which the track delivers better than a 90-minute hot yoga session or a parachute jump from an airplane. From the initial pulse of the bass in “One Too Many,” it’s clear that this track will deliver something that accompanies my morning coffee better than the freshest croissant aux amandes. Annika Henderson has a femme fatale thing going on paralleled only by Nico. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the singer goes simply by “Anika”.) The song is simple, simplified, simply stunning. The persistence of the bass line is tempered by the ominous synth and breathy, staccato vocals tentatively delivering a weary warning.
Like a sun shower of sound, “Orlando” taps you on the shoulder during the cleanup from that basement rager and starts an impromptu dance party. The song is full of a sort of stoicism that could spur one to only the most entertaining forms of hedonism. It makes me want to hang out in NoDa. “Call on the Gods” fades in in medias res and twists with a writhing energy bolstered by guitar, bubbling thick like hot tar. If the human race ever takes another shot at sending a mix tape into space like back in 1977, I hope that this song, if not the entire album, can be included. In “Disco Glove,” Exploded View uses rhythm like a homing device with so many layers of sinusoidal waves. This album may incite youngsters to do outrageous things with their hair, but that may not be a bad thing. The song is raucous and raw, measured and intense. It is a crowd of people moving in different directions at different speeds.
“Stand Your Ground” is sudden solitude following the hubbub of “Disco Glove”. While Martin Thulin pounds out a primordial pulse on the drums, Anika’s voice floats heavily like balsamic vinegar suspended in olive oil, with lines like “Get a job” and “Wash your face”. This is a good song to listen to before going to a dentist appointment. “No More Parties in the Attic” burst through my speakers like a parade of pachyderms. This track gives the listener a feeling of invincibility. The clink-clink keeping the beat in the background, like the timer on a bomb, serves as a consistent reminder of The Future, invincible or not.
As the album continues, “Lark Descending” wafts in like someone else’s flatulence. Growing accustomed to the sensory nudge, there are subtleties and layers to it. Anika’s voice is a sweater paired with a short skirt (acceptable incongruity). As gradually as milk is added for the perfect béchamel, the instruments fade out, leaving Anika alone to confront the world, which she does in a mournfully beautiful way. The party is starting up again, slowly, with “Gimme Something”. The instruments convene in a dimly-lit convocation for the sole purpose of reveling in the convergence of rhythm and melody. The warm humanity of Anika’s voice joins in, and as the band sways as one like a stand of trees in a hurricane, the listener experiences a perceptual marvel. The song left me feeling like I had traveled in time, and like I ought to embark on an adventure in the study of auditory illusions.
“Gimme Something” morphs into “Beige,” a track characterized by a darkly experimental twang. As quickly as it appears, it is gone. The final track on the album, “Killjoy” sounds like a time machine getting an oil change. The sound is everywhere but thin like organza. Annika sings the chorus, “You’re a killjoy, little boy,” with intelligent realism paired with dismayed exhaustion. As she continues her chanson, the music pulses, pounds, and sways with her in solidarity.
Exploded View’s debut album is one that is best enjoyed alone, or in a room full of people and conversation. It might alienate your best friend in your car, but if listened to alone via headphones, it can bring you to incredible heights. Exploded View has managed to create music that goes beyond that location in art that is beyond words. I hope my mind and ears can evolve fast enough to enjoy their next album as much as I enjoyed this one.