Over the course of her small but impressive body of work, Anika moved from one bleeding-edge label to another: she was the closest thing Invada Records had to a pop star, covering well-known and obscure songs with an aloof delivery that added layers of commentary and mystique. On Exploded View, her band's self-titled Sacred Bones debut, she trades this crafted, deliberate approach for a more freewheeling one. Anika first joined forces with Crocodiles producer Martin Thulin, Robota keyboardist Hugo Quezada, and Jessy Bulbo instrumentalist Hector Melgarejo when they served as her backing band during a Mexican tour, and the impact of performing live together can be heard in their music: while the foundations of Exploded View's sound -- dub, Krautrock, post-punk, and avant-garde electronics -- are similar to Anika's earlier work, the band's largely improvised songs have a spontaneity that only comes from heading into uncharted territory. And though the mix of dubby atmosphere and questioning lyrics on "Lost Illusions" could have appeared on one of Anika's previous releases, the band sounds much more kinetic, and sometimes chaotic, on most of Exploded View. Whether it's on the shimmering disco-punk of "Orlando," the raucous joyride of "Disco Glove," or the unsettling inevitability of "No More Parties in the Attic"'s martial beat, Anika and company push their limits and sound all the freer for it. None of these quick-shifting moods or sounds would be possible without her charismatic voice, which anchors Exploded View with poise and restraint. Though these aren't qualities often associated with experimental music, they add something radical and timeless, alien and strangely familiar to Exploded View's work. On the gorgeous "Lark Descending," she's equally cosmic and political; swathed in extraterrestrial synths, she sounds like she's viewing petty human squabbles from outer space, but her lyrics are straight from the combat zone ("Do you know what it feels like to pull the trigger?"). Anika allows herself to open up a little more here than on her Invada releases, imbuing "One Too Many"'s world-weary beauty with a newfound intimacy and arriving at a complex mix of tenderness and dismissiveness on "Killjoy." Wilder and stranger than Anika's previous work, Exploded View is an unpredictable ride that suggests listeners should follow wherever she beckons.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares