Two years after their self-titled debut album, Exploded View are back with an release that maintains the uneasy, lo-fi textures of their last but strips back the arrangements in places.
This is most apparent on the title track, on which an ominous, arpeggiated synth sequence loops with 808 kickdrums and soaring pads; this dominates the whole track, leaving little space for Annika Henderson’s vocals.
While her voice is not much like that of Beth Gibbons from Portishead, Annika’s vocals often achieve a similar effect, a gently haunting sound that is aided by post-production – in this case, reverb and plenty of it. Her best performance is on Gone Tomorrow, where the repetitive synth loop lays a soundbed for probing lyrics (“What would you do if your love was gone tomorrow / And you never found the words to say?”) delivered in a wistful tone.
Later on the album grates with the monotonous, abrasive Come On Honey, as its chugging guitar leaves little in the memory apart from an obnoxious aftertaste, but lead single Sleepers is a better example of what the group does best. Bass and synth notes linger as white noise flutters back up the rhythm section, and Annika blends in perfectly with the eerie atmosphere. The uptempo Dark Stains is an album highlight, with ’80s drum sounds and a sweet bass riff creating an infectious post-punk vibe, a sound that Exploded View would be well advised to mine more often.
Clocking in at a nifty 38 minutes, Obey is a solid release, though it trails off near the end with tracks that are clearly less inspired than the others. In these sections the minimalism is stretched too far and the arrangements are too loose, but the album has great moments elsewhere.