If Anika was your girlfriend, you’d be a proud man (or woman). She’s a striking Teutonic wonder. She’d probably write you little poems and stories, sing you to sleep and make you collages out of old newspapers and macaroni pieces. How you would love it. But you’d best return her phone calls promptly. Woe betides you if you’re seen out with another girl. And if you decide to leave her, you’d better change the locks, your Facebook password and most likely your identity quick-snap.
Because Anika’s debut record is unhinged to the point of requiring prompt sectioning. It is obsessive, devoid of any sense of rational thought and purpose. It rattles with anger, spits with contempt and handcuffs itself to you and swallows the key while continually proclaiming how 'we’re made to be together'. It is frequently terrifying, plainly unsettling and isn’t the best thing to listen to alone in the dark. It is also quite, quite brilliant.
Over a scant 36 minutes, Anika hangs between tautly stretched wires of tension, a profound study in controlled intensity. The music is threateningly minimalist with a whispered Unknown Pleasures sense of vague implication; deep sub-bass lurching menacingly over lonely carnival piano and all manner of eerie sounds and samples that fade in from nowhere and then depart in an equally startling manner. Yet despite the ever-present paranoia, the songs run abundantly with sweet folk melodies that could be considered beautiful, were they not tied back-to-back with sounds from the depths of a nightmare. The juxtaposition of the two makes the album eminently fascinating, drawing you towards the danger like a bag of gold in the middle of a busy motorway.
And then there is her voice. Nico comparisons are obvious in the drawl of her dispassionate delivery but with Anika, there is a certain sense of ghostly withdrawal from emotion, an equal measure of robot and seductress. The vocals always skim just beneath the layers of music, giving the impression that you are listening through a heavy velvet curtain. And throughout the trajectory of each song, you feel a chill of unease at your neck as they unfurl in a way which suggests someone writing merely to maintain some vague semblance of sanity. Opener ‘Terry’ seems to be a yearning plea to a recently deceased lover. ‘No One’s There’ sounds like Anika conversing with her fears in the mirror, trying to allay them with the never-convincing words “Stop looking over your shoulder, no-one’s there”. And then there is the final knot in the straightjacket arms: the teetering-on-the-edge infatuation of ‘I Go To Sleep’. Over a series of simple piano figures, she repeats the lines “I go to sleep/and imagine that you’re there with me”. It could come across as sweet or devastatingly sad. Instead it comes across as disturbing and psychotic; you can almost see the mirror, photo album and voodoo doll strewn around her on the bed.
And we've not yet even mentioned the 'Dub Dylan' cover of ‘Masters of War’ which appears twice: firstly as a seven-minute exercise in minimalist reggae before reappearing at the end of the record as a brass-kissed dub remix. Bizarrely, it works perfectly, fortifying the bite of the original with a twitching, jaw-clenched paranoia. It’s another example of why this record wanders far from the sphere of normality. The nearest comparison is the solo work of Syd Barrett, which from one angle appeared to be a collection of sweet acoustic songs and from another illustrated the remaining pieces of one man’s mental armour falling swiftly away. Anika is an unhinged record that isn’t easy to look squarely in the eye. But the reward is in the depth and sheer bewilderment of every single creak, croak and crackle. Pulp once sang about “The sound of loneliness turned up to ten”. Well, this may very well be the sound of lunacy….