Anika's ice-queen charm | Bleader

Anika's ice-queen charm


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  • Anika
Geoff Barrow, the producer best known as the brains behind Portisheadwho play the Aragon next Wednesday—hooked up with Anika last year through a mutual friend. He'd started a new dub-heavy project called Beak, and once he met with Anika—a Berlin-based journalist who'd also worked in concert promotion—they quickly agreed to work together. A week later they made Anika's self-titled debut album with Beak as the backing group, and last year Stones Throw released it. They recorded it live in the studio in a single room, sound bleed and all.

Anika's icy, robotic delivery has earned her frequent Nico comparisons, but she sounds much more raw and pitch-challenged. Most of the songs on the record are covers, and because I'm familiar with, say, the Skeeter Davis classic "End of the World," I can mentally Auto-Tune her singing and wince at its shortcomings. But in the end the imperfection and amateurism is what makes the record stick. The band sounds punkish, primitive, and unpolished, with fat, serrated bass lines repeating reggaelike lines ad infinitum while live drums and electronic beats ricochet through the mix like they're trapped in a game of Pong.

The backing tracks sometimes seem to have absolutely no connection to the song Anika is singing. I'm curious to see if this comes off like some kind of postmodern karaoke live, with Anika singing the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" or Yoko Ono's "Yang Yang" without noticing that the instrumental tracks could be cutting-room snippets from Black Ark Studios. It may seem as if I'm making fun of the music, but I'm not—this is one of the most befuddling and addictive records I've heard in the past year. Anika and Barrow seem to have pulled off a kind of special moment-in-time pairing that could be tough to re-create on a second record, but I'll worry about that later. Below you can hear her cover of a Kinks song, given an almost Suicide-like treatment.

Anika makes her Chicago debut on Monday at the Empty Bottle, backed by Beak (who are without Barrow for this tour).

Anika, "I Go to Sleep":

Today's playlist:

Moniek Darge, Crete Soundies (Kye)
Stephan Crump and James Carney, Echo Run Pry (Clean Feed)
Paul Kelly, Dirt (Water)
Kenny Dorham, The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (Uptown)
Various artists, Berkeley Guitar (Tompkins Square)