Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Grimes - Visions

After the female tour de force of 2011in which Merrill Garbus and Annie Clark both released widely acclaimed records and the elusive Lana Del Rey caused waves in the mainstream, Canadian songstress Claire Boucher, more commonly known as Grimes, has taken the duty of kicking off the new year with her attempt at continuing this feat.

Visions is a highly ambitious release, with Grimes having recently been signed to illustrious label 4AD. The album is a series of acidy bass lines and whimsical ghostly vocals that upon first listen flitter faintly before fading away often without lasting effect or impression. Yet, with each play of the record, the depth of the album is defined. Much like with the work of James Ferraro, the choice of instrumentation on the album is kitsch and cheap, yet as the Ferraro proved with last year’s Far Side Virtual; that doesn’t matter so long as the music is good.

Nevertheless, there is a key problem on Visions; its consistency, or more to the point, lack of consistency. Tracks like ‘Vowels = Space and Time’ and ‘Circuambient’ come across as cuts from a long – and purposefully - forgotten era, and ‘Eight’ is a painful clash between pitch bent vocals. Furthermore, these songs sit amongst a collection in which a continuous theme is unapparent. Whereas, for example, Balam Acab’s broodingly concentrated debut Wander/Wonder was woven together with persistent loops and thematic melodies, Visions represents at times a messier, less intricate side of electronica. ‘Circuambient’ starts with crackles of static, and the ‘outro’ ‘Know The Way’ is laden with liquid noises, however neither of these are recurring, and therefore give the impression that Boucher just wants to cram as many different ideas and sounds into the record as possible.

Despite these criticisms, the excessive ideas do pay off at points, with highlights like ‘Oblivion’, a brilliantly crafted pop song that erupts into enjoyably tacky synth arrangements around the half way mark, as well as the vaguely familiar and massively catchy ‘Be a Body’. The previously mentioned closer ‘Know the Way’ recalls the oriental orchestration of Glasser’s debut LP Ring, whilst many of the tracks have the haunting backing vocals used by CocoRosie on their album Grey Oceans. Much like the latter, Boucher’s voice is often difficult to approach, as she squeaks and wails her way through complicated vocal lines, yet much like the music that supports it, her voice becomes comfortable and accessible after repeated listens.

What Grimes misses in consistency, she more than makes up for with confidence and ambition. Her ideas and intentions are often undefined, but they’re still there, as visible in the layers that build and build to produce the heavy whirring, spinning feeling of each track. Whilst this album may be a fairly ‘hit and miss’ affair, the positive aspects really shine through and provide hope for what one would expect to be a strong and productive future.


By William Hall

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