Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
The third release by Montreal indie auteur Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes, keeps floating away. Boucher, who cooked up this music in her bedroom using GarageBand, is full of interesting rhythmic and melodic ideas. At its finest, in songs like "Vowels = space and time" and the sumptuous ballad "Skin," Visions is like Etsy Timbaland: catchy, eerily minimalist electro soul, poked and prodded by unsettling beats.
To riff on Dr. Theodor S. Geisel: Oh, the places pop music will go. In a recent interview, Grimes’ Claire Boucher cited the looped-sample stylings of Panda Bear as instrumental in charting a sea change to her structural approach to making music, which the artist herself has dubbed “post-Internet.” It’s a curious chain of influence, considering Animal Collective was thought to roam the outskirts of the avant-garde just a decade ago.
As a child I feared the day the world would be taken over by robots; these days I am seized by a much more potent fear that I am becoming one. Digital interfaces invade our imagination in strange, tangible ways, and with each day I spend in front of my computer screen, the red Gchat dots representing my friends and co-workers start to look more and more like HAL. Have you ever caught yourself trying to open a new tab in your brain? Was the Wikipedia blackout of 2012 as important a cultural moment as the New York City blackout of '77? Do androids dream of electric sheep, or do you not have an app for that yet? "Post-internet" is a term that's stuck all too easily (guilty as charged) to Grimes' airy cyborg-pop, thanks in part to her endless quotability in acknowledging the digital world's influence on her aesthetic ("The music of my childhood was really diverse because I had access to everything.
Creators and critics alike have a peculiar tendency to place works of art in a position of posteriority. The avant-garde seemingly no longer exists, replaced by endless posts: postmodern, posthuman, post-rock, and now according to Grimes aka Claire Boucher, post-internet: “The music of my childhood was really diverse because I had access to everything, so the music I make is sort of schizophrenic. Basically, I'm really impressionable and have no sense of consistency in anything I do.
In the recent video for Visions' brilliantly woozy Oblivion, Claire Boucher dances around a stadium wearing giant headphones while topless sports fans slap their bare chests and roar. It's an apt visual representation of this eccentric release, which revels in its oddity with irresistible glee. Visions is Boucher's third record as Grimes, though you get the sense that it's the first she's taken seriously, and it's certainly the first to get a large-scale release (it's also her first for 4AD).
There's this question of an artist's point of view; it probably comes up in fashion and design more than anything else, but it's a concern in all of the arts—the idea that the work comes from the fact an artist sees the form differently, from a place that only they can access. So, typically when a critic is trying to review a record, they might try to find that point of view and bust it up, to provide us all some cultural touchstones to help process the music. Visions is really an album that does its best to defy that.
Though the term "witch house" is often thrown around too loosely (and often derisively), Grimes' wispy vocals and four-on-the-floor beats are probably the closest to what the style would sound like if its name were taken literally. On Visions, Claire Boucher develops the unmistakable sound she forged on Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, where her songs hovered in space one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next. The baby-ghost vocalizing that was so distinctive and divisive there is here as well, and Boucher sounds especially like an alien pop princess on sparkly tracks like "Infinite Love Without Fulfillment," "Genesis," and "Eight," where she's shadowed by robotic backing vocals.
Grimes’ Visions is an absolute blast. Easy to admire, easy to love. But Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom if it isn’t tough to describe. Coaxing these 13 lucky strikes into a literary sandwich is like trying to photograph a sleeping ghost, stroke the northern lights or bag a will o’ the wisp with a fishing net.
With all this talk of noise producers going techno and outsiders making dance music (100% Silk, et al. ), what happens when those lo-fi impulses synthesize into pure pop instead of half-cut dance? Canadian Claire Boucher's Grimes project provides a bit of a hint: starting out with homemade synth-pop trifles where you had to really strain to hear the songs, her split LP last year with fellow Montrealer D'eon showed an emerging voice, with slightly clearer sonics and impressively hooky songwriting. Her debut album Visions—picked up from small label Arbutus by indie giant 4AD—continues down the same path, a precocious little pop album made from broken keyboards and Boucher's elfish, multi-tracked voice.
There’s a moment on Grimes’ fantastic(al) new album Visions, about halfway through “The Colour of Moonlight” — just after the ‘chorus,’ for which Claire Boucher has swapped her flatly hooky ‘verse’ for an even-steadier one-note melody, as if she were walking some sort of tonal tightrope — when the tension splinters into a multitude of particulate voices. Steeped in traditions of R&B and emotional exorcism though she may be, and extraordinarily talented vocalist though she assuredly is, Boucher’s recorded selves eschew the spotlight: the more they project and the more they plead, the smaller they become. By now, we’ve already at least subconsciously noted this trend, especially in the sub-two-minute Ed Banger dollhouse of “Eight.
GRIMES plays the Horseshoe March 19. See listing. Rating: NNNN Given the exceptional strength of so many female-fronted electronic underground pop acts at the moment, it must be a tough time to be an old-school rock guitar guy. They're getting left behind, and no amount of Foo Fighter Grammys is going to change that.
GrimesVisions[Arbutus Recrods / 4AD; 2012]By Josh Becker; February 21, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetBased in Montreal, Arbutus Records has over the past couple of years been releasing a steady stream of especially ethereal ambient synth-pop. Even without Claire Boucher, the label’s roster is impressive enough, including Blue Hawaii (a boy-girl duo featuring Raphaelle Standell-Preston, who, speaking of indie weirdo pop, also serves as Braids' lead singer), Pop Winds, and the sometimes-rather-folksy Sean Nicholas Savage. But Ms.
It started with a glitch. Did Claire Boucher have some insane foresight into the critical opinion that was awaiting Grimes’ 4AD debut? There is a hell of a lot right with Visions, but the opening track ‘Infinite Love Without Fulfilment’ wraps up, rather succinctly, the stuff that’s obviously wrong with it (let’s get that out of the way first). Because, for all its charm and its ethereal wonder, Visions always stays just out of reach, scratching the surface of emotion, but never quite fixing the itch.
“Genesis,” the second single from Grimes’s Visions, seemed to hint that Clair Boucher was on her way to making a Lykke Li-like thrust toward popular appeal. After all, the poppier-than-usual track had arrived on the heels of Boucher’s gig as opening act for the Swedish singer in 2011, and her move from obscure Montreal label Arbutus to 4AD. But Visions is nowhere near the kind of accessible indie-pop vehicle that Li’s Wounded Rhymes was.
Typical. You spend an age longing for more exciting female electronic artists and then three come along at once. Joining the likes of Fever Ray, Zola Jesus, Nite Jewel and Julia Holter in a burgeoning pantheon is Claire "Grimes" Boucher, based in Montreal. Her third album is a beguiling decoction of pretty much everything going on in hipster musical circles, sweet and savvy and scary at the same time.
Among the rest of 4AD’s increasingly divergent recent acquisitions (tUnE-yArDs, Beirut, and Zomby among them), Claire Boucher–who’s been steadily releasing music from her bedroom as Grimes for the past two years–sticks out like a sore thumb; she’s actually a perfect fit for the label’s famously shoegaze-y pedigree. Boucher’s striking falsetto, and the billowing reverb/delay she covers it in for nearly all of Visions, could easily pass as any number of the hallowed names in their catalog, but it falls closest to that of Liz Fraser, the impressionistic singer for 4AD’s former flagship act, the Cocteau Twins. A faint vocal likeness to Fraser is about as derivative as Visions ever gets, though.
Throughout the creation of music, a vision is definitely one of the most fundamental features for any artist to realize. Canadian-born Claire Boucher has already released two albums under her Grimes moniker to light praise. Her vision of music is one that is unyieldingly catchy and ethereal in overall scope and, while maintaining a skillful hand at melody and songcraft, Grimes’ Visions is a fully-realized affair.
I saw Grimes live a few weeks ago. It was a show full of charm and childlike wonder. Wearing a baggy Tupac t-shirt she seemed in awe of the sounds she was creating, at times jumping back from the array of microphones and keys in front of her, dancing at points as well. It seemed so charming and unaffected that you like to think that her performance was unaffected, her charm genuine.
A third LP to savour from the distinctive Canadian artist. Lou Thomas 2012 Claire Boucher claims not to own a mobile phone. Judging by her musical output and interviews under her Grimes moniker, this is the only luddite move she has ever made, as the Montreal-based artist has again delivered some fascinating and healthily progressive music on Visions, her third album.
Jack Barnett of These New Puritans said a brilliant thing last year. Discussing the band's previous plans to follow up Hidden with a more accessible album, he told NME, "I've sort of abandoned that idea. I've realised I actually hate pop music. Most people don't actually like good music, so there's no point in doing something for them." The tip at least of Jack's tongue was in cheek there, but it was as refreshing as a cold face-dunk to hear someone break the poptimist diktat.
In the last year, Claire Boucher has gone from an underground hero in the Montreal music scene to an internationally renowned newcomer on the cusp of greatness. Self-proclaimed as her first "real" album, Grimes's Visions capitalizes on the buzz her previous three releases generated by showing off her true potential as a genre-bending, radical-thinking artist. Knowing it was recorded with GarageBand is a testament to Boucher's resourcefulness, as Visions sounds like she's moved beyond her lo-fi past.
GRIMES “Visions” (4AD) “Visions,” the third solo album by the Montreal musician Claire Boucher, who records as Grimes, starts out at full speed. Its opening track, “Infinite Love Without Fulfillment,” gallops hard, a collision of art-rock and electro-pop, all in service of Ms. Boucher’s blithe coos. Grimes has only been releasing music for two years but has already established a signature approach.
Visions is the fourth album in two years from the Toronto-born, Montreal-based Claire Boucher, or Grimes, and it presents her 2-D musical schemes in an atmosphere of drowned-out drum and bass, hymn-like vocals and ambiguous emotional drive. Like a fairytale space princess rendering of Uffie, Grimes burbles in a high pitch over a blend of heavy and fly-away synthesizers. For a dream-pop album written in what she describes as seclusion without the privilege of daylight, it is astoundingly airy and upbeat with a zephyr of trip-hop.Upgrading her talent from previously released Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, Grimes has come into a cleaner, more distinct version of her IDM self, albeit one still influenced by Aphex Twin, TLC and Enya.