By Isabel Corp
The undeniable foothold that Annika Henderson — known to the world as Anika — has had in the underground music world for the past decade hasn’t let up ever since she released her debut album of dub noir covers of classic songs by the likes of Bob Dylan and Yoko Ono back in 2010.
Following her debut album, Henderson took an indefinite hiatus from recording music that lasted for eleven years. But make no mistake, Anika’s time away from the limelight has not lessened the public’s interest in her. In fact, her self-titled debut has only grown in popularity since being released in 2010.
In July of 2021, the British-German indie darling released her long-anticipated follow up album, Change, which she recorded in the rural gothic town of Brandenburg on the outskirts of Germany. With its overtly personal-is-political messaging, warm earthbound synthesizers, and a strong dose of altruism showing that it’s never a crime to care too much, Anika has only proven that her ability to wow and mystify audiences and critics alike is stronger than ever.
Her new EP of six reworked tracks from the album entitled Change: The Remixes, encapsulates a wide range of sonic world-building that fully embraces her love of contemporary dance music. And this new direction makes a lot of sense, considering the long and rich history of serious singer-songwriter compositions being transformed and reworked into dance remixes. Take Terry Todd’s electronica remix of “Missing” by Everything But the Girl for example, where a pulsating club beat against Tracy Thorn’s hauntingly sorrowful voice makes the remix infinitely sadder than the original.
Anika has said of this new direction in sound, “As a big fan of DJing and dancing in dark spaces, I wanted this to go further, keep growing, expanding, so I asked some friends from very different worlds to take it somewhere else, beyond the bird-filled hills of Brandenburg.” Each track is replete with transformative vocal manipulation, sprawling oscillations, and thumping techno beats. The Planningtorock remix of the title track, aptly titled “Planningtochange,” boasts rattling percussion and bold, bright synth patterns, with Anika’s voice dropped several octaves lower than the original and thoroughly soaked in processing. The hypnotizing dance beat juxtaposed against her serious declarations is eerily evocative of the tendency people have to dissociate from politically-inflicted turmoil by throwing themselves further into the song and dance of their day-to-day lives.
There is a slow, intricate buildup of tension on the instrumental intro of the Dave Clarke remix of “Never Coming Back,” Henderson’s heartbreaking lamentation of the slow decline of all forms of life in the midst of late-stage climate change. The intro vacillates between reverberating bleeps and bloops and a spiky drum pattern. As her voice comes into the fray, the instrumental is stripped down to a skeletal bass line, punctuated with the release of a vibraslap, as she makes the heartbreaking declaration: “I saw the signs, I chose to ignore them/I saw the warnings, I turned a blind eye.” Once the chorus kicks in, an astronomical disruption of high-pitched synth orbs and chopped up helicopter blade samples elevates the dramatized lyrics, illustrating how this all could have been prevented, if only human nature wasn’t so plagued by denial: “Now you’re never coming back, and now you’re never coming back.”
The Lauren Flax Remix of “Critical” uses repetition to drive home the theme of steadfast resistance as Anika repeats the phrase, “without prejudice” in several intervals throughout the song. The instrumental opens with a simple bassline, and tentatively adds layer upon layer of pulsing drum beats, cool synth pads, and clacking rhythm sticks. But once the main verse comes in, all these elements are stripped away, leaving nothing but a thumping 808 to bolster Anika’s reverb-drenched vocals.
The Maral at the Controls dub remix of “Finger Pies,” is a bit disjointed. While the buzzing drones in the background certainly add to the menacing nature of the song, there’s also a lot going on at once. The rhythm section and the chopped up vocals feel like they’re sparring with each other, and the remaining instrumental culled from the original track feels out of place.
The whirring PBDY remix of “Freedom” is a standout track on the project, with a whirring ambient choral background reminiscent of Enya, a ticking drum machine, and Anika’s simple yet undeniably powerful utterance: “I’m not being silenced by anyone, I’m not being silenced by anyone/Least not you, least not you,” making it abundantly clear that it doesn’t matter whether or not her opponent believes her, because it’s her conviction that will propel her forward, whether they like it or not.