As far as history is concerned, Edgar Allen Poe never fronted a psych-rock band. Obey puts that right.
Exploded View’s take on Portisheadesque dub music is enchanting, swampy, and quite intoxicating. Descending into Obey is to wade through a river of existential dread. It’s hard going at times, and your bound to lose your footing. But this is a journey worth taking.
Perhaps the comparisons to Beth Gibbons, or Nico if you really want to go there, are unavoidable. However Obey trembles with voodoo, and deliberately eschews the industrial precision of trip. This is ram-shackle, witchy. You can imagine this emanating from a dilapidated shack, shrouded in mist, eerie light peeping from round the door frame, and half-submerged on a particularly ominous stretch of the Louisiana Bayou.
This predilection for abstract and foggy noise can mean Obey occasionally turns to dirge, but it more often trembles with a nervous energy. Groove takes precedence on the frantic ‘Dark Stains’, with singer Annika Henderson’s deadpan vocals fading in and out of a ceaseless krautrock stomp. ‘Raven Raven’ bustles with a busy rhythm section and meandering synth washes.
Henderson is usually the focal point, less so for her vocals than for her intonation: a doomy, Curtis-like patter of inky blackness. Her voice is chilling, robotic, and yet somehow trembling with life and empathy. It’s the tightrope that only a few vocalists can manage.
Obey is a rare album that arrives out of time, a mix of ’90s grunge and ’70s Berlin extraction. Yet these labels do not do justice to the depth. By your third play, you feel like you’ve only just scraped the surface. “Do as your told…and you’ll get out alive” intones Henderson on the title cut. You’ll get far more than that.