Run For Cover is a weekly music column comparing cover songs to the original version. Prepare for a major bending of rules as we hear musicians throw around genres, tempos, style, and intent. Whether they’re picking up another’s song out of respect or boredom, the results have impressed us.
Even though Portland is most often associated with indie rock acts (see: Sub Pop) and mountainous ranges (see: Sasquatch! Festival), local electronic act Chromatics dive into other genres. Their songs range from post-punk grit to light rock, but perhaps their best efforts come from delves in Italian disco. 2015 marks the band’s fourteenth year as a group. How?
Chromatics know that everyone needs to dance. Yes, everyone, because even disco can get dark.
When they first began, Chromatics were centered around noise rock, throwing down two albums before switching to a dance-infused style that took off with 2007’s Night Drive. Film studios slowly began picking at their infectious, assured makeover, pulling tracks into TV shows, advertisements, and runway shows. Come 2011, they were given the spotlight when “Tick of the Clock” was featured in the Ryan Gosling flick Drive. Electro-noir found a new time to shine.
On their fourth EP, In The City, they brought pop deeper into their groove, bringing a crunchy vocal feedback into the mix that helped give the songs a more live feel. They were looking to spread some grime on their work, and the resulting EP brought the whispers of something evil into the studio. The title track grooves alongside the dark repetition of Glass Candy or Desire, scraping along the bottom of a ansinthe barrel. Over the course of seven minutes, it stretches into a drug haze of covered guitar scrapes and keys that mimic a bomb’s tight ticking.
Around this time, Anika came into focus. The singer-songwriter dropped her first music in 2010 out of nowhere. Little was known other than that she splits her time between Berlin and Bristol but represents the stone cold German tone like she’s never been allowed to leave. Her band sees members of BEAK> backing her up and Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow behind the mixing desk, giving herequal parts retro twist and modern groove, and a trustworthy foothold to invest in. What makes her work really stand out, however, is her voice.
For once, monotony is charming.
Her tedious, dull voice stands on its own. It doesn’t grow wearisome. Instead, the uniformity of Anika’s vocals allow for a flattened pitch that emphasizes words to carry their own tone. Anika, much like Chromatics, stems from a post-punk noise background that reaches out towards new wave. On her eponymous debut EP, she includes a cover of “In The City” and uses her throaty Nico coo to glean the punctuated sultriness instills in the original.
Most prominently, the cover sees Anika loosen up. She chooses to have the bass dominate, letting the guitar and keys sit in the backseat while hand claps and cymbal-heavy drumming sit confidently in the front. Every line is sung with a forward yearning, words dropped with defeated solitude and exasperated hope. Regardless, she works the contast in smoothly. “In The City” is still eery and seductive. The difference is the protagonist’s motive.
In a way, Anika’s cover is like a starter kit. For those who can’t endure a bleak seven-minute synthpop disco jam–unfortunately, and fairly, those people do exist–but want to dance, Anika has sawed the number down for a bite-sized dance snack. Just like Arcade Fire‘s “Reflektor” or Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky“, “In The City” needs both a stark radio edit and an extended club version. It’s just short enough to listen to before heading out with friends. For that, it’s hard not to be grateful.