There’s an increased clarity in Claire Boucher’s visions nowadays; musically, lyrically and politically. Born out of a frustrating duration of belittling, patronising and scrutinising. The fourth album as Grimes acts as an arrow-firing fort attacking numerous corners of the music industry. The media (in the vein of Lana Del Rey on ‘Venus Fly’), music blogs, male producers and even her own allegiance of fans are the targets of an attitude-fueled record; that’s brave, but many of its factors risk alienation.
Having an innocent falsetto and a small-frame – in the manner of Stina Nordenstam – hasn’t always helped Boucher gain respect but the way she inventively contrasted those angelic attributes with a nightmarish otherworldly aura was spellbinding and uniquely intoxicating. Already a pioneer of the zeitgeist DIY bedroom-pop community, her third album Visions perfected her shape-shifting séance-pop compositions and time travelling fusion of medieval-meets-futuristic experimentation. A product of a sleep and food deprived state, she showed how artistically and dangerously committed she was to producing her undefinable sound.
The follow-up Art Angels wasn’t conjured up in the same circumstances and it shows, transparently so. Although, it’s still admirably produced completely by Boucher – when she could have easily sacrificed control – the clarity of her sound is significantly greater. Firstly, the construction of the new songs are noticeably straightforward containing predictable 2010’s EDM elements such as thumping nightclub basslines, treble-tampering and repetitive drops, making it comparable to existing chart-toppers. With mentions of “beats” on two of her tracks, it’s her hedonistic gift for stereotypical DJs. ‘Pin’ contains the warps of Skillrex and its momentary crowd noises picture her likely new audience. The marmite-track ‘Kill vs Maim’ is Charli XCX ‘s aggression over the energy of Martin Solveig‘s ‘Hello’. Whilst on ‘California’, Grimes rather lazily samples the rhythm of Rihanna‘s ‘Pon De Replay’, and is likely to further disappoint antecedent fans already upset over her trap-driven song ‘Go’, which was originally written for the Barbadian. Another interval release ‘Realiti’ seemed to heal those wounds due to its humble presentation, thin production and context as a letter of gratitude, convincing fans to request its LP inclusion. And yet, Grimes has remastered this with demanding, thick and overdone gloss and consequentially killed its soul.
However, her anachronistic use of strings and traditional folk in ‘Easily’
, the Janelle Monae
collaboration ‘Venus Fly’
– is there a record the American isn’t on? – and the operatic yet misleading intro ‘Laughing and Being Normal’
show that creativity still runs in her veins, even if it’s in short supply. The Brazilian-whistling ‘SCREAM’
is also praiseworthy for it’s disturbing unleash of fury, free in the style of Björk
, symbolising a change from Visions’
victimisation stance – but the fact that it’s in Cantonese and rapped by Taiwanese Aristophanes
is counterproductive to Grimes’ talents.
Secondly in the clarity department, her once-obscured vocals – which caused contributors of lyric websites to debate over her words – are replaced by crystal clear speeches. It’s an advantageous development in understanding Boucher’s thoughts more accurately. As the Canadian intends on expressing disenchantment to various marks, it’s a calculated decision. ‘World Princess Part II’ could be interpreted as a stab at male producers with a superior and sexist complex with the line: “Call me your kind/You’re so far behind me.” A slight contradictory statement when the album seems to show off the same tricks.
Grimes rebels against the judgmental backlash for switching to a happier, less gloomy style of sound in ‘California’ and ‘Flesh Without Blood’, the latter pointing the finger at the indie scene’s love-hate indecisiveness. There’s also room for commentary on the environmental issues including on ‘Life in The Vivid Dream’ but the controversy over the music business protesting distracts from this intellectualism. Hopefully, this form of ecological clarity is explored more on her next album, but as for the music style that will encase that confrontation, it’s a roulette for the genreless wanderer.