Desert Daze 2019 was the last gasp of Southern California’s art-life before the pandemic put the world on pause and separated us into various little, claustrophobic boxes for two years. That year, Anika, was an early daytime treat that awakened new pathways of musical possibilities in the minds of those present. Completely alone onstage and wearing a white suit that gave her charisma an air of artistic purity, jive, and her signature stoicism, Anika’s voice felt like European art pop of the highest order. It’s a voice that seduces listeners into thinking she’s hiding some wellspring of peaking emotion that she could unchain at any given moment. This is the effect of taking stoicism and reservation as part of your performing style, audiences only grow more curious as to what’s not being shown. Instead of rewarding audiences by plainly giving away its secrets, Anika’s voice keeps people begging and listening for more. In 2022, seduction is its own reward. Every bit of media is served to us on an endless platter and having people take the time to travel down rabbit holes has become a financially risky business strategy for artists. What works in Anika’s favor is that her voice and music are the rabbit hole. The mystery is completely natural and not one bit constructed.
Anika’s 2010 self-titled record was a sleeping tour-de-force of indie art pop reverie. Its cover is black and white with a distorted picture of her face shot from above, hiding her features. Her next album, 2021’s Change, was a hazy, psyched-out trip meant to empower the listener during a pandemic that shrunk many people into their shells. The cover of Change features Anika dressed in powerful, striking reds, her face hidden again. The theme of hiding your true self, like a glacier with the majority of its mass existing below the water’s surface, resides here too. The droning and buzzing machines on her 2010 album married her voice in songs that evoked the feelings of nocturnal benders. Speaking to Anika before the show, she referred to her previous records as headphones music but I can attest to how good these songs were live at Desert Daze or in the car. I can’t tell you how many late night rides Anika has been the perfect soundtrack for, shedding romance, character and nuance on a sleepless Los Angeles.
The Lodge Room was the perfect venue for the LA stop on Anika’s North American tour. The mysticism of the space, the indie sensibilities of Highland Park, and the booking philosophy of the venue, brings Los Angeles the underground’s most evocative and cutting-edge artists. Opening first was Dreyted, a noise rock duo of twee ivy league punks that ripped alongside a drum machine evoking the sounds of Sonic Youth and Big Black but in a much cleaner fashion you could bring home to mom. They were followed by Katie Alice Greer, a femme icon in the making, grabbing the audience in the palm of her hand as her band wailed on their instruments in pure rock fury.
Now with a full band, Anika picks up a guitar for a few songs, which seems just as natural to her as when she’s only holding a microphone. Mostly playing songs off Change, the audience’s reaction to Anika’s stoic and reserved sound was an opposite expression. People dance, sometimes in Zaney ways, animated by the music’s deranged spirit. I could close my eyes and perfectly imagine LA’s artsy fart youth becoming cartoons, something like Ralph Bakshi’s 1992 Brad Pitt classic, Cool World. A nocturnal wonderland where excess and pandemonium orbit around a night club where a character like Anika would perfectly fit to soothe the souls of these mad and colorful beings. If you think about cartoon characters throughout the history of animation, their personalities aren’t necessary extroverted. They’re often times hosting a massive interior world… just like Anika, and are sent through wild adventures to pull that interior world out into the real…just like Anika. Alice’s travels through the rabbit hole and into Wonderland would probably pair well with Anika’s music.
Most glaciers only reveal their tip above the water, but even just the tip is enough to leave anyone that gazes upon it in awe of its beauty. Below the surface is the glacier’s overwhelming mass, full of secrets and knowledge. I don’t know how expressive Anika is among friends but I imagine the best way to get a glimpse of the glacier’s mass below the surface is by listening to the music. And no matter what approach she takes to her music, be it minimalist or maximalist, rock, psych, or pop, her voice will always be a rabbit hole through crystalline intellect and vivid dreams. This seduction, where her natural stoicism, reservation and coolness can get a listener to jump into freezing water to get a glimpse down the rabbit hole, is a rare gift to music in 2022.
Words by: Robert Shepyer
Photos by: Michelle Corvino