It wouldn’t be the wildest of accusations to assume you have never heard of Grimes. And for Claire Boucher, the creative mastermind behind Grimes, obscurity comes with the territory of breaking new ground. But with “Visions,” her fourth release in two years, she manages to produce creepy-crawly dance pop that demands recognition.
Boucher reaches seemingly at random across genres and generations to arrive at an eclectic-yet-defined sound showcasing her vocal range, production talent, and utter strangeness.
Boucher describes her Grimes project as “post-Internet.” One look at the album art, covered with Kanji, Cyrillic, and various non-representative symbols, seems to encapsulate exactly what Grimes is aiming for: nonsense.But this is complicated nonsense, operating on multiple levels and striving for meaning through its sound.
Standout track “Genesis” embodies this sacrifice of comprehensibility for aesthetic quality, beginning with a sticky beat that Boucher drags through oriental dimensions before opening up, revealing her pop-perfect falsetto.
The juxtaposition of radio-friendly hooks and schizophrenic sounds generates an atmosphere reminiscent of your high-school prom in a graveyard. But just when “Visions” begins to make sense, it expands its formula to a width made possible only by an artist with Internet access to unexpected influences.
The track “Nightmusic,” featuring Majical Cloudz, begins and ends with operatic samples before infusing a futuristic beat and rhythmic but indecipherable vocals.
Grimes is certainly ambitious in her experimentation, but she occasionally oversteps her bounds and devolves into name-dropping, her influences overtaking her artistic intentions. “Eight”, for instance, tries to mash beats reminiscent of the score from the film “Blade Runner” with teddy bear vocals, and results in a jarring robotic repetition.
Yet, almost as if Boucher knows where she comes up short, “Eight” comes in at under two minutes. It’s this damage-control instinct that allows Grimes’ inventiveness to shine.
Boucher’s experimentation results in a mess, but it also breaks the shackles of genre. On “Skin,” Boucher creates a minimalist soundscape, carrying the slow ambiance with surprising vocal muscle.
The compositions throughout indicate fantastic potential, and when the layers begin to blend, “Visions” begins to resemble the DNA of dance music, not just a fleeting mutation.
Despite the few missteps, addicting and eccentric tracks like “Oblivion” ensure Grimes will garner plenty of attention. This attention will result in some negative head shaking, wondering what exactly Boucher is saying with “Visions.” But those who, like Boucher, are more interested in sound than meaning will understand that the album is too focused on making heads shake to explain itself.
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