Cultural Bulletin
Cultural Bulletin is a quarterly magazine that provides an international view of creative work. We look to film, music, design and art as signifiers of our cultural moment.


Label: Sacred Bones


Exploded View’s Obey is a record that is as oblique as it is direct, expressing discordant complexities whilst holding the childlike simplicity of a lullaby. Central to the record’s themes is the systemic doubt that pervades a cultural narrative in the West, especially in relation to individual potential and self-worth. Obey simultaneously embodies a simple message of honesty and sincerity on one hand, whilst on the other reflects the deluge of trite self-help mantras and memes that are themselves symbolic of the commodification of “enlightenment” and “success.” These now commodified mantras of positivity that adorn the co-working spaces of major cities and represent the most banal facets of Instagram feeds, exist only as cultural totems for a brand of vacant emptiness. 

Obey is a record of considered passion and seems to come from a place that has known despair intimately. Rather than dismiss this, there is the sense that Exploded View have the collective spirit to create something positive from otherwise disparate and negative component parts. The consequence is music that is appropriately complex - borrowing respectively from post-punk and 70’s electronic music without approaching anywhere near satire. The more subversive aspects of Obey express the claustrophobia that acutely symbolises a self-dismantling inner narrative as well as an overall information anxiety. Rather than regret, this could be characterised as the fear of regret resulting in paralysis as is characterised in the highlight, ‘Gone Tomorrow’: ‘You Waited too long and you were too scared to say and you waited too long...’
The possibility of failing spectacularly or falling pathetically is too much of a cost to bare. ‘Don’t miss your chance, don’t be the coward.’

This narrative exists as a strong substrate to Obey but perhaps not as polemically articulated as this review suggests. This, after all, is where pop music - just as label founder Jenny Hval demonstrated in her latest release The Long Sleep - has the potential to articulate the crux point of nuanced situation. Music in this respect is an atmosphere, a performance and drama that exists simultaneously on multiple planes. The narrative structure is inferred by the lyrics whilst the intonation of the music provides deeper context and when music stems from a truthful place, the plane of the artists who are sharing something of themselves with the listener. Exploded View succeeds in that endeavour by presenting an honest and uniquely singular record - if there is a wider message to be taken from Obey, it is surely one that is most clearly communicated by this example. AG