A collision of post-punk, dub, and girl group pop, Anika is defined by its namesake’s voice. Anika's stiff Teutonic alto evokes not just the ultimate German ice princess Nico, but the brazen haughtiness of punks like Malaria! and Mania D. Backed by Portishead's Geoff Barrow and the rest of BEAK> -- whom she met while working as a music promoter -- she uses the near-robotic aloofness of her voice to brilliant effect on wisely chosen covers and a handful of originals. BEAK>'s inspired minimalism is the perfect foil for her deadpan cool, and in many ways Anika feels like a more focused, feminine second album from the band. Like BEAK>'s debut, this album was recorded in just a dozen days; Barrow's production sounds like Joe Meek dabbling in dub, and Billy Fuller's inventive basslines nearly steal the spotlight from Anika more than once. Yet Anika is far more subversive than BEAK> could be on their own. Many of the album’s best moments happen when Anika lends her avant-garde chill to ‘60s girl group singles: in her hands, Twinkle's morbid biker love song “Terry” is sleek, sardonic, and a little bit eerie; atonal edges and angles trade innocence for nihilism on Skeeter Davis' "End of the World"; and Anika is at her most Nico-esque on a stark revamp of Greta Ann's "Sadness Hides the Sun.” Conversely, Yoko Ono's “Yang Yang” is transformed into a fantastic anti-pop single, with klaxon-like synths providing the hook and a bassline so strutting it could have been stolen from a blaxploitation soundtrack. Though the album is mostly covers, Anika imprints her identity on every track. The dubby version of Bob Dylan's “Masters of War” and its reprise reflect her background as a political journalist as much as her original song “No One’s There” does. Anika is a bold, often fearless debut, and even if it’s occasionally an acquired taste, it doesn’t hedge its bets.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares