Mythological gods, the destruction of nature and human extinction are on the mind of Claire Boucher – the Canadian Art-pop musician known as Grimes – and there are many moments when listeners feel they are observing the world while sitting beside Miss Anthropocene, a fictional demonic character that’s getting a sadistic kick out of watching humanity destroy itself and of which the title of Grimes’s fifth album is named after. A record that show many maturing sides to Grimes’ artistry.
‘So Heavy I Feel Through The Earth’ immediately pushes us into the villain’s world and is a welcome return to Grimes’s best credentials (which lacked on the disappointing Art Angels): an atmosphere that’s a blend of innocence and darkness, a and a voice so thin that it scatters around like dust in an empty and echoey chamber. Although the lyrics are partly influenced by her recent pregnancy, as Claire Boucher put in an interview: “lyrically, the song is kind of about when you decide to get pregnant or agree to get pregnant. It’s this weird loss of self, or loss of power or something. Because it’s sort of like a future life in subservience to this new life.” The song was initially born from dream she had, in which she was falling from the sky whilst fighting a mythical monster. Its pace is absorbing and anti-airplay, as it’s spacious and unhurried. The ending transforms us to an empty dark cave with the only sources of lights being the will-o-wisps lurking in the darkness.
The gothic electronica ‘Darkseid’ also exists in the same realm. Grimes hums in the background in an ethereal manner and sings “Unrest is the soul, we don’t move our bodies anymore” like a line from Madonna’s ‘Erotica” to give it a mysterious allure. However the majority of the song is dominated by distorted and unsettling Mandarin about a friend suicide from Taiwanese Rapper PAN – whom also performed on ‘Scream’ from Grimes’ last album ‘Art Angels’ TO a similarly disturbing effect. Notably the ending sounds like a middle-eastern instrument manipulated to the effect of a dragon groaning.
‘4Æm’ is just as otherworldly – it has a similar transcendental quality to the unforgettable ‘Symphonia IX’ from Visions – as it’s influenced by a Bollywood film called Bajirao Mastani, but it excitingly switches back and forth between this Indian atmosphere and a 1990’s style drum n’ bass. Claire Boucher says the aforementioned film is about forbidden love and this paired with her recent interest in Greek mythologies has made the musician write about an admirer of Aphrodite that observes the goddess in a nocturnal glow: “Aphrodite. I wrote your constellation. Into the sky, ooh. S-s-s-s-sky. Sky“.
‘My Name is Dark’ and ‘Before The Fever’ continue a gloomy rock edge. The former mixes screaming yells (she wanted it sound like roaring beasts) with a pop style vocal. It has a slight tacky chorus but together it makes for an unique industrial-pop fusion. There’s a nihilistic attitude to the track (“Imminent annihilation sounds so dope“) that’s intriguing and Claire Boucher’s admission of insomnia recalls her production process to 2012’s Visions. There’s a line in the track from Frank Hebert’s Dune: “Paradise on my left, hell on my left.” The end of ‘Before The Fever’ turns the treble down so low, it pushes Grimes deep into the background and she sounds like she’s humming whilst lost in a fuggy underworld. “This is the sound of the end of the world. Dance with me ’til the end of the night, be my girl“, she sings before she slowly disappears, as if Miss Anthroposcene is a fearless spectator.
‘New Gods’ and ‘Delete Forever’ musically sound out of place because they are straightforward but lyrically they contribute to the album’s themes on death and self-destruction. The former is a stunning ballad that shows just how surprisingly good Claire Boucher’s voice can be when it’s unfiltered and without multiple layers. It’s beautiful and an example of side of Grimes that we haven’t seen before. Her voice has a wow factor and the track has an interesting idea behind it, as Grimes contemplates what if we had Gods nowadays to represent modern day concepts like they did in Ancient Greece. Although like a lot of record, the lyrics don’t always completely do the imagination justice.
‘Delete Forever’ is a bit disappointing as a music experience as it starts off as a simple acoustic guitar strum, the kind heard 90’s singer-songwriter song (although Grimes admits it’s a borrowed sample) followed by random banjos, but the music is misleading. Following the death of Claire’s former manager to cancer last year, as well as many other fatalities recently within her social circle, the song is her flawed reaction towards death; a toxic mix of self-deprecation, an addiction to depression, morbid thrill and desensitization.
Lyrically the catchy electro ‘Violence’ is up to interpretation, as Claire Boucher hasn’t fully explained the meaning behind it, with many bloggers speculating understandably that it’s earth talking with humanity about its contribution to climate change.. Miss Anthropocene seemingly observes Earth in an apparent masochistic manner: “I’m like begging for it, baby. Makes you wanna party, wanna wake up. Baby, it’s violence.” Grimes performs some lines with an almost sarcastic American high school girl expression that can be both inventive and irritating.
Although only on the deluxe digital edition – which is a hindering and strange move consider it’s one of the best examples of the album’s apocalyptic concept and her genre change – ‘We Appreciate Power’ is a hammering industrial rock anthem. Sort of like merging Muse’s Drones, Babymetal with Janelle’s Monae’s cyborg lyrics from The ArchAndroid. It addresses the fear towards artificial intelligence technology but is from the perspective of a girl group attempting to spread positivity towards robots with colourful propoganda.
The lyrics end with the brainwashing instruction: “Neanderthal to human being. Evolution, kill the gene. Biology is superficial. Intelligence is artificial. Submit. Submit. Submit. Submit. Submit.” By the end of the record, you could indeed feel completely powerless and submissive to Grimes’s new concept and multisided maturing change in sound.