Grimes – Visions

written by: February 10, 2012
Release Date: January 31st, 2012


Claire Boucher has kindled a reputation for her drifting and waifish singing over hypnotic, lo-fi tracks that could be connoted in another dimension as pop. Hypnotic it may be, the question is, how far is the listener willing to go under? Visions is her third effort and by far the most attentively produced. Here is an artist that has proclaimed her music “post-Internet,” occasionally titling songs in symbols, Cyrillic and Japanese characters. Her label, Arbutus, indicates on its website that Boucher is “a veteran of the illegal DIY loft culture of Montreal.” Many of the recordings from her first two albums were played on toy instruments. A lot has changed this time around.

Free track “Genesis,” was Visions’ first foot forward, a blogosphere blowup track—and this one, for lack of contrivance, verges on toe-tapping goodness. Likewise follow-up “Oblivion” has a prancing bassline that could have been ripped from Ultravox. Now that Grimes has left one brand of shtick behind, trading it for a higher fidelity version—there’s at least some parts listenable, less art-for-art’s sake. And here’s where critics have been complicit in bestowing too much credit—Boucher’s music doesn’t create any parallel worlds because there’s no foundation beneath them, nor does it appeal to much more than a shoegaze aesthetic. It could be that Visions is the artist’s own, secret brand of fun, but then what’s in it for everybody else? It’s like showing up to a rave the only person sober.

At times, her voice is so high and so shrieking that it’s genuinely grating. Please store any glassware before cranking “Eight.” Approaching the album on its own terms is incredibly difficult because there are very terms to go off. There are times where it could be mistaken for Yolandi Vi$$er singing over a Bjork track that High Places produced. Clearly, she means to be perceived as spacey. One read down the tracklist can tell you that. Songs such as “Infinite ♡ Without Fulfillment” and “Vowels = Space and Time” are poor attempts at the cutting into electronic-pop outfits (not naming names) shtick, the latter even venturing into soul and oldskool hip-hop influences. There seems to be a pattern to her songmanship: play a familiar sequence over a dancy drum loop and then, just as the listener anticipates the last chord, make it something unpredictably spacey and weird.

Actually, the attempt is at something like an incantation, to wind the listener up in a spider web of ritualistic chanting, sensuality and psychedelia. Spun-out vocal delays, gated arpeggiators and custom synthesizer pads equate to one big, disjointed mess. “Nightmusic” opens with a sample from Mozart’s “Requiem” and continues on a similarly contrived spree of disappointment, stilted self-importance and would-be innovation. There’s no doubt that there is a strong bond between the visual and aural in her music, that it does challenge the listener—but in ways more troubling than good. Despite Visions’ airs, there’s no sense, even from Boucher, that this album ever wanted to be taken as a unified collection of songs and not far-out shots in the dark.

Grimes – Visions tracklist:

  1. “Infinite ♡ Without Fulfillment (intro)”
  2. “Genesis”
  3. “Oblivion”
  4. “Eight”
  5. “Circumambient”
  6. “Vowels = Space and Time”
  7. “Visiting Statue”
  8. “Be a Body”
  9. “Color of Moonlight (Antiochus)” (featuring Doldrums)
  10. “Symphonia IX (my wait is u)”
  11. “Nightmusic” (featuring Majikal Cloudz)
  12. “Skin”
  13. “know the way (outro)”