“And then the rain came, and then the birds fell, and then the deserts dried…”
With the icy resolve of an oracle, British/German chanteuse Anika Henderson doesn’t so much sing as prophesize. Her voice, an alluring grayscale mystery, tunnels into the present from a distant past, a blend of Nico’s calculated grit and the trance-speak wisdom of Broadcast’s Trish Keenan—a perfect companion to the ambitious art-rock noir backing provided by her bandmates in Exploded View.
Their first record, a compilation of direct-to-tape jams, was pure flashbulb memory. Intended to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry of those early encounters with her San Rafael, Mexico collaborators, the naked electricity present in those sessions captivated on its own terms, but traded an overarching narrative thrust for eye-of-the-storm ferocity. Now, on their second offering, Summer Came Early, Exploded View sharpen that jagged formula to a fine point, making the leap from imitative gestures to something fresh and tantalizingly futuristic.
Save for the glittering grooves of single “Orlando,” Exploded View’s strength lies in its apocalyptic charm; slathered in a healthy dose of atmospheric noise, the specter of death, decay, and devolution seemed to lurk at every turn, giving the impression that these sounds, this world, might come to an end at any moment—a nod to the off-the-cuff, improvisational nature of the sessions that produced the record. With the lineup now solidified into a cohesive working unit, Exploded View sounds entrenched, dug-in for the long haul. If their self-titled LP was a mad rush towards doomsday, Summer Came Early is a post-apocalyptic communiqué from the other side of the mushroom cloud.
Lyrically, Anika obsesses over a half-remembered past, painting a vision of a naive society on the brink of destruction on the standout title track. “We watched the trees blossom / We didn’t question a thing,” she sings, her parched voice choking on the dusty rattle of a tambourine, nodding towards a world ravaged by climate change with the repetition of the lines “The summer came early that year / But we sat on our porches and didn’t question anything.” It’s not quite protest rock, but the scorching emptiness conjured up by the band, embodying humanity’s rattle with lumbering bass and dry drums, drives the point home with stark efficiency.
From here, Exploded View slides into “Forever Free,” a graceful cinematic interlude that wraps sputtering percussive samples in a cocoon of heavenly synthesizers. It’s a blissful dream that’s cut short by the nightmarish fever stomp of “Mirror of the Madman,” the closest living relative to their first record. The dub echoes on Anika’s voice stack over broken tom-tom fills; she’s dissolving faster than she can speak, chasing after a ghostly presence that slips through her fingers: “I saw the exit door / And there she was.” The band rises and falls with her frustrations, building to a crashing high tide before powering down like a broken machine at the close.
The raga-rock Velvetisms of “You Got a Problem Son” close out the record, warping a fuzzy squawk of a guitar solo to its limits as Anika slips into the distance for a final time, locked in a hypnotic, chanting fugue state, reveling in retrograde sonics while stretching towards a decaying future. Prophets of a dying world, Exploded View prove they aren’t content with being a space-age oddity.