Grimes – Visions review

Much like any artist-shaped pawn in the nefarious game that is the modern day music industry, Grimes has retained a near omnipresent presence across the various social network feeds, blogs, news hubs and style magazines in the period subsequent to 4AD’s announcement of this album Visions. Such a constant presence is breeding ground for cynicism, however there seems to be something natural about the way the Vancouver born Claire Boucher has involved herself in this daily barrage of “possible content” – to use the PR parlance of our time – that’s wholly endearing. Take for example the day Boucher spent overseeing the popular US blog Gorilla vs Bear. It was no doubt a shrewd move by 4AD given how integral to promoting an act GvB has become, yet these kinds of publicity stunts have proved ill conceived in any cultural corner – as anyone unfortunate enough to flick through the recent cringe-worthy Noel Fielding takeover of The Guardian’s Guide can attest. The overarching feeling you got from seeing Boucher’s 16 posts arrive that day was she had a clear love for the music of her friends and contemporaries and just wanted to show it.

This writer should profess to further personal reservations about Visions, having watched Grimes deliver a thoroughly underwhelming performance in that vortex of hyped acts doing bad gigs known as the Hoxton Bar & Grill around the time her eminently infectious track “Vanessa” infected my brain via the Darkbloom split release with the somewhat mysterious D’Eon. All these apprehensions were cast aside from the glorious introductory moments of “Infinite Love Without Fulfilment” and have since become distant memories, as Visions is one of those albums whose repeated listens brings forth new pleasures. Despite already possessing releases for an impressive array of labels (No Pain In Pop, Hippos In Tanks and Lo Recordings) it’s clear that Visions is Grimes most accomplished work to date and sees her on the cusp of deserved wider success.

If you are new to the Grimes sound, there is the immediate shock of Boucher’s vocal range, with the shrillest falsetto used as an additional instrumental tool. It’s more fun to regard her vocals as such – trying to decipher the lyrics shifts the focus from what is musically a constant joy. Regardless, any sense of shock should subside as the fuzzy edged beginnings of “Genesis” float over your senses, the moment the skipping beat arrives confirming the track to be one of this year’s most immediately gratifying and shamelessly hypnotic pop moments.

4AD list an impressive array of artists and genres that inform the sounds on Visions, with everything from Richard D James to K Pop mentioned. However there are never any real moments where such influences seem overtly apparent; instead the music on offer demonstrates Boucher has matured into a talented producer with an eye for the intricate details which discern the Grimes sound. “Oblivion” for example plays out how this writer wishes Nite Jewel sounded these days, with Boucher’s outer atmospheric vocal sticking to the gloopy arpeggio and playground beats at the track’s core, which is gradually complemented by added textures. The recently aired video for this track only adds credence to the idea Grimes is in this for the right reasons – she’s talented and likes to have fun making music.

Already getting commissioned for her productions skills – see the recently premiered Cadence Weapon track “88”, there are moments on Visions that reveal Boucher’s dancefloor potential which highlight a possible area where she might excel should she choose to explore. The rough hewn EBM bump of “Circumambient” and the gentler cosmiche float of “Symphonia IX(my wait is u)” – strangely reminiscent of Supermayer’s Hot Chip remix – could easily find their way into the sets of the more adventurous and broad-minded DJs out there.

Tony Poland


Tracklisting:

1. Infinite Love Without Fulfillment
2. Genesis
3. Oblivion
4. Eight”
5. Circumambient
6. Vowels = Space and Time
7. Visiting Statue
8. Be a Body
9. Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus) (featuring Doldrums)
10. Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)
11. Nightmusic (featuring Majical Cloudz)
12. Skin
13. Know the Way