Album Review: Grimes – Visions

Grimes – Vowels = Space And Time

Musician-artist-icon Grimes (Claire Boucher) is looking down at the rest of our own top 30 charts, and the music video from her smash hit single Oblivion is YouTurbulence in the making.  A lot to celebrate for someone who turned 24 this past St. Patrick’s day. This ascending star is devastatingly alluring.  Her climb has been inevitable: Who can resist the quirky girl in a cloak with pink hair squeaking electronic gasps into the part of our hearts we didn’t know existed?

-I plead guilty.

She’s a one-woman band, but it is not clear band is the right word here.  She paints her own album art, she directs her own music videos, etc.  She and her ex-boyfriend tried to float down the Mississippi River in a house-boat with potatoes, and they got as far as Minneapolis.  And she’s not quite pursuing a noise so much as a generational anthem. Take her video for example: in Oblivion she sings to herself in headphones alongside shirtless jocks at a motocross track, a high school football game, and in a men’s locker room.  Lean with a few dreadlocks, she is a sore thumb, and loving every second of it.  Her glance is hopelessly lost in the grime of twenty-first century, but her voice has a reconfiguring, transformative power.  The long chipmunk squeals turn the jumps of the motorcyclist into heaps of optimism.  The letters painted on the brutish football fans scramble into poetry.  In her own othering and her impeccable immanence, she unites the Montreal landscape and grasps a collective identity deemed impossible in late capitalism.  We are now together as grimes, rather than mere grime.

Raised in Vancouver, she joined a Montreal pop/punk scene within the Lab Sytnhése in 2006.  The loft scene fostered the pastiche sound she achieves in her new album Visions.

Her influences vary quite widely from Aphex Twin to Enya to TLC. And she recently caused quite the stir opening for Lykke Li on a tour.  The album released by 4AD records (March 12, 2012) is her fourth in the last two years.  It swings in between electronic video-game beep-bops to dreamy haziness and upbeat heart-purges.  Similar to The Knife, she achieves a blurring of electronic/synthy/ambient pop.  Track 2 ‘Genesis’ fluxes between a group of hooks and the faint 10 different words Boucher sings again and again produce an emotional and tonal heart-purge.  She moves quickly into a machine-age fantasy with track 4 ‘Eight’.  In track 6 ‘Vowels = Time and Space’, Grimes achieves a looped-out siren slowdown.  And in track 8, ‘Be a Body’, she brings in slower moans and an eventual chilling rasp a few minutes in.

Visions is a must-have pop album, certainly a phantasmagoria of sound with a nice cohesion for listening straight-through.  Her voice isn’t exhausted and it’s another instrument for distorting or illuminating.  Grimes the night away.

-J Dancy