The Berlin-based artist's first LP in 11 years is an electronic pop treatise on the nature of evil, finds Hayley C Scott

"Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it," wrote the great French philosopher and activist Simone Weil in 1933, as she contemplated how to become a complete human being amid a world that seemed to be falling apart.

One of modern life’s most disorienting perplexities is that evil isn’t always as easily recognisable as you’d think. While acts of evil can mushroom into monumental tragedies, the individual human perpetrators of those acts are often marked not with the grandiosity of the demonic but with absolute mundanity. In The Banality of Evil, the German-born American political theorist Hannah Arendt interprets such a state as “the dilemma between the unspeakable horror of the deeds and the undeniable ludicrousness of the man who perpetrated them.”

The nature of evil is something that informs Berlin based British ex-pat and former political journalist Annika Henderson, better known simply as Anika, across Change – her first LP in 11 years. Described as a vomit of emotions, anxieties and empowerment, thoughts like, ‘How can this go on? How can we go on?’ frequently crop up.

Anika has suggested she was influenced by questions of who participates in evil, which arose during the rise and fall of President Trump. Paranoia and distrust are themes that linger throughout, but at the heart of the album is the very human idea that there is always hope, and with that even change can be effected. Nothing denotes this better than the title track. ‘Change’ is optimistic in a way that’s uplifting and inspiring, and never overly didactic. Elsewhere, ‘Sand Witches’ alludes to the feeling of cultural alienation – attributed to Brexit – and questions the true meaning of home.

Political themes aside, Anika’s voice once again takes centre-stage. It is Nico-esque in its plaintive fragility and with a detached, ice-cool delivery that could be all-too-easily compared to Broadcast’s Trish Keenan.

There’s a lot of lyrical substance to Change, but it’s also musically exceptional. Anika has a gift for creating electronic masterpieces that don’t shy away from the experimental – look at her work in Exploded View, among so many other projects – but across Change lies a subtly poppy undertone that would give the likes of Stereolab a run for their money.

Change is musically daring but familiar – the austere yet affective electronic backdrops elicit Broadcast in their prime, or High Scores-era Boards of Canada. According to Anika, ‘Naysayer’ and ‘Never Coming Back’ are both a call to arms and a warning: the latter was written after reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Anika had been living in the old East German countryside outside of Berlin, where she observed no shortage of birds. She later found out that their numbers had dropped significantly, but it is one of these changes that we never really stop and notice, and when we do it’s too late. We are all stuck in the safe convenience of now, when we should be taking care of the future.

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