Exploded View’s new album strikes the listener like a surrealist but remarkably natural feeling painting. Obey, out 9/28 via Sacred Bones Records, depicts a mental landscape unencumbered by much anything, really. Something, in this alternate but true world, has happened. That’s an admittedly vague statement, but the record does not present itself as super easily understood and two dimensional. Instead, it’s organic, and almost changes form as you listen. There’s no one to one relationship to something truly flat and static here.
There’s an understanding that feels at play of just how to hit the listener by surprise. That surprise comes in part from the fact that there might be a temptation for some to “dismiss” the record as simple; and on a practical level, no it’s not like the record contains the work of an entire orchestra. Instead, Obey presents sparing instrumentals with vocalist Anika’s ethereal work lurking atop the whole mixture and in the background the entire time.
The temptation to dismiss the work as simple might be reminiscent of some’s tendency to call haphazard feeling paintings “simple.” They’re not, really. It’s simply that what the artist is depicting is less of this direct, obvious physical world and more of the mind. Emotions, dream states, and everything in between are delicate things. We all know this, having gone through our existences as humans up to this point.
Exploded View, though, takes their experience as a band with these aspects of our existence to the next step. They’ve captured the mental delicacy perfectly on their new record, Obey, which trapezes along across an experimental, electronic base. The music remains gentle enough that you’re not lost in distractions. The sense that you’re listening to strictly electronic music or strictly experimental music doesn’t overwhelm the piece. Instead, well, you’re just listening to music, and their presentation invites the listener to do a deep dive.
In a sense, the work is what you make of it as a listener. Anika is not screaming in your face what you should feel or take away. Instead, she and the band are acting more as a metaphorically silent tour guide. They’ve brought you, the listener to a point perhaps familiar and perhaps not. They’re standing by, though, turning your attention to what’s in front of you – and they want you to look.
Listen to a single released ahead of the full length below, via Spotify. Also, check the band out on Bandcamp.