Album Review: Grimes, “Visions”

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Album Review: Grimes, “Visions”

Ms. Claire Boucher, performing and recording as Grimes, (NOT to be confused with Morgan Grimes), is a talented musician/producer from the fertile artistic community surrounding Montreal’s Fleuve St-Laurent. Her D.I.Y. ethic combines a punk sensibility with late 80s/early 90s French electropop.  As such, she will inevitably draw comparisons to fellow habitants, Crystal Castles, even though Visions is less underground punk than futurist pop.

Visions is a cohesive work of modernized and goth-inflected electronica that will end up on many critics’ “Best of 2012” lists while becoming one of those mid-level indie successes that creates a passionate fan base. Think of a range in popularity that starts with Grimes’ fellow Canadian act Caribou, up to the indie-cult status of a band like Sleigh Bells (who today are releasing their second full length album, Reign of Terror). A more-than-respectable range, and one where an artist can make a living.

A Vancouver native, Ms. Boucher’s sugary vocals may remind her hometown’s elder scenesters of Kristy Thirsk‘s work with 1990s fixtures Rose Chronicles and Delerium.  Others will hear hints of 1980s pop group Exposé.  Both are valid references. Boucher’s ethereal and birdlike chirp nimbly soars and dives with parabolic precision while twirling about and layered over her unique iteration of the otherworldly ambiance popularized by Dead Can Dance.  There are those who will discern a lack of focus and a touch of Shiny Object Syndrome in its hopscotch between hooks and rhythms, and others who will find this approach brilliant. This reviewer is in the latter camp, finding it to be an appropriate approach for an era where the Modern (Wo)Man is bombarded by quickly-changing stimuli and must respond with agility and rapidity.

Layered vocals emerge from a heavy use of reverb and delay and bring about an intoxicating, dreamlike state. Out-of-body experiences may be common, in which one watches themselves glide effortlessly through a futuristic roller skating rink shrouded by alternately opaque and translucent predawn fog. Or, maybe, dancing in a European discoteque where ecstasy and exotic women flit and float about rhythmically, languidly and purposefully. (Your mileage may vary.)  Meanwhile, “Symphonia IX (My Wait is U)” begins with a piano intro that evokes the psychedelic keyboard of The Doors‘ “Riders on the Storm,” and “Some Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)” (featuring Doldrums) will remind some of the production values favored by The XX. Catchy electropop is pervasive throughout and highlights are too numerous to mention without turning into a veritable list of tracks.

Ms. Boucher’s earnest, wondrous and child-like ability to dart about emotionally, responding to whatever stimuli are in situ, makes for a tremendous listening experience.  Rather than embracing the tangible and immediate, it floats through a foggy dream of industrial-inflected beats and wispy pop vocals that are often cinematic and occasionally heavenly. The ethereal audio that results is aptly named Visions.

(The album can currently be streamed at NPR Music).

RATING: 8 Elvises.

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Behrnsie has a love for music that dare not speak its name. He attends many shows and can often be found counting out the beats for no discernible reason. He played alto saxophone in his middle school jazz band, where he was best known for infuriating his instructor when it was revealed that he played everything by ear, and could not in fact read music. He takes great pride that this is the same talent/affliction that got Tori Amos kicked out of the Peabody Academy. He does not live in his parents’ basement….except during the holidays.