We live in an age that makes communication with people from other cities, countries, or even continents easier. Naturally, this technological advance is also an element that facilitates collaborations between people from diverse backgrounds that live hundreds of miles apart. That is the case with Exploded View, the international music project of Annika Henderson, Hugo Quezada, and Martin Thulin. The band came together after Berlin-based, British-born Henderson played some shows in Mexico with Thulin, Quezada, and Amon Melgarejo acting as her backing line-up. The result of this collaboration was the band’s self-titled debut record, a work drenched in their experimental attitude towards post-punk, infected with no-wave tendencies and an industrial backbone.
Exploded View now return with their sophomore work, which arrives with a change of line-up as the band became a trio following the departure of Amon Melgarejo. In addition to this shift, the band aim to take advantage of the technical aptitude and multi-instrumentalism of their members, leaving behind the live recording process and the raw sound it produced, and instead using overdubs for recording. As a result, the primitive side of Exploded View has subsided, but it has provided an expansive scope and more ambitious outlook towards structures, progressions, and atmospherics for the band.
The resulting effort, Obey, still conveys the elements and tendencies that made Exploded View such an interesting act. The feverish quality, with a ferocious and raw sense, meets with a dreamy perspective that breathes in the fundamental sentiments of the band’s music. It is a combination that strikes the key balance for Exploded View, retaining a soothing and almost calming quality through a post-apocalyptic landscape. The funereal feel that opens this record with the meditative “Lullaby” displays this combination of sorrowful melodies with a dystopian characteristic. It almost feels like a modern requiem, a slow and pensive introduction that slowly unveils the core of Obey.
With a softer, nostalgic tone the band deliver “Letting Go of Childhood Dreams”, a stripped down track that explores the feeling of reminiscence in a subtle, elegant and endearing manner. It is this endearing quality that stays with the band through many parts of this album, with the closing track “Rant” displaying this aptitude of awakening a mellow feeling with simple and direct melodies.
Still, when the band departs from its point of origin, Obey sees them explore further areas. In a surreal manner, the opening track and its pensive characteristic give way to “Open Road”, which arrives with a psychedelic twist. The hallucinatory element of the track with its brilliant, bubbly background fuses with the bizarre instrumentation and the hypnotic progression for an intoxicating result. The dark folk tone of the track is undeniable, and it is an element that the band further explores on the title track. With the main theme mirroring a middle eastern melody, the folk characteristic meets with the psychedelic touch for an otherworldly result.
From the mystical dark folk realms, the band performs a 180 turn, introducing their industrial-inspired, post-punk renditions. A track like “Dark Stains” offers this mirror image to the dark folk tone while retaining the sorrowful perspective of “Lullaby” and the hypnotic quality of “Open Road”, but adds the pummeling industrial repetition to this new wave aesthetic. “Raven Raven” stems from this approach, even though it arrives with a more minimalistic take and exposes Henderson’s magnificent vocals amidst an array of dissonant synthesizers. The band continue to push the post-punk agenda to further directions, taking on shoegaze elements for the hazy and powerful “Sleepers”, and adding a bit of a krautrock progression into the mix. Similarly, the dissonant touch goes into a full noise rock mode with “Come on Honey”, as the soundscapes cave under the weight of the distorted guitars and the mechanical drumming.
Despite their diverse influences and concepts, Exploded View keep Obey in control, without allowing their various tendencies to drag them to a specific style. The result is a polymorphic record, which displays an affinity for the new wave and post-punk scene, but is keen on enhancing their core with further influences.