In 2012, electronic music is rough rope to balance on. Evolving technology increases the opportunities for DIY disc jockeys to sample, mix and synth themselves into a full-blown record producer. And while there’s something beautiful about that opportunity, it means that there’s a lot of mundane stuff out there. Upon first listen, I passed off Montreal-based Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) as a run-of-the-mill beat maker with a decent voice to add to the mix. I gave her fourth release in two years, Visions, a first scan through my Blackberry headphones, and ended up underwhelmed. However, after giving the album a few in-depth listens on a proper stereo system, I still may not be swept off my feet, but nonetheless admit to be quite impressed by the composition and intricacy of Visions.
Equal parts R&B, IDM and glitch-pop, Visions packs a stellar variety of sounds into each track. But rather than split each composition into a separate genre, the influences are evenly distributed across the entire album. Upon first listen, this gives Grimes a monotone, ambient feel. But, not to worry – those enamored with intricate songwriting need not feed disappointed. Each song is led primarily by dance-pop beats, but woven around each song are carefully placed samples, ambient noise and poppy synth lines. And coating all this together is Boucher’s delicate, creamy moan of a voice, behaving more as an additional instrument than a lead vocal.
Once you succumb to the neurotic flow of the album, the entire 13-track sequence is a brilliant listen, but there are definitely highlights. The dark, yet bouncy “Oblivion” has a great drive about it, eventually climaxing in a spacey synth-fest that brings about great results. And “Eight,” my favorite track on the album, combines glitchy breakbeats with a Jackson 5-esque chant for an almost tribal effect. Meanwhile, “Visiting Statue” has a somber, meditative feel that brings to light Boucher’s truly versatile tastes and abilities. And before the outro, Visions closes with a “Skin,” a beautiful ballad that again displays Boucher’s talent for sneaking in glitch and IDM elements under a pop/R&B template. And the vocal breakdown around minute four is quite breathtaking.
All in all, Grimes boasts an interesting aesthetic and a creative approach to songwriting. While parts of the album’s multi-genre approach left me longing for my Chemical Brothers LPs, or EPs by fellow lo-fi R&B artist The Weeknd, Visions is a fantastic effort from an artist whose blooming talent only grows brighter with each release.
Stream: Grimes – “Oblivion”