Grimes – Visions (2012)

Another album that has induced strongly split opinions, Grimes’s 3rd album Visions.

Don’t let the album art put you off (I know it did me); one might expect some kind of hardcore goth or punk album to be lurking behind a cover like that, but the truth is surprising. A dream/synth pop hybrid hides beneath, and boy is it a good one.

Refining the previous sounds of Halfaxa and Geidi Primes, Visions is…unusual. Kicking off straight away with “Infinite” we find ourselves quickly introduced to the album’s overall style; simple synth melodies with a little bass kick and the falsetto charms of Grimes, aka Claire Boucher. And that’s all there is to it.

But we quickly segue into the two best tracks of the album, “Genesis” and “Oblivion”. Both of them really have a compelling innocence and girlish-ness that I find kind of endearing. If I didn’t I’d probably hate this album, because Boucher’s vocals are probably the only redeeming feature; as I said before, the melodies are simplistic and actually quite boring if you pay attention to them, they have very little progression, but Grimes has been clever and worked her voice into the textural fabric of the tracks, even if that means a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

Saying that though, tracks like “Eight”, with it’s harsh and gritty electronic breakdowns and “Circumambient” with it’s whirling, overlapping synth and driven bassline make for pretty interesting listening. Certainly towards the second half, from “Visiting Statue” onwards, the angle shifts and the focus becomes more vocal-centric, which were previously somewhat obscured. “Visiting Statue” is perhaps the most vocally honest and least girly of all the tracks, it really is stunning. “Vowels = Space & Time” is forged in much the same way, with a shuffling yet submerged synth beat and really hair-raising, hypnotic highs in the vocals.

“Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)” is about the closest thing to a love-song Grimes has, again turning up the hypnotic dials to max; that boring synth fuzz melts into the background while sparkling, ethereal vocals and clicks and chimes surface. “Nightmusic”, recorded with the assistance of her boyfriend, regresses again, losing the vocal clarity to reverb and bass, frustratingly counterbalanced by the uber sexy slow-jam of “Skin”. There is so much diversity in the sound, it’s surprising how far such simple constructions can be modified to create altogether new and different tracks.

There is nothing quite like Visions out there at the moment. Grimes has forged for herself her own little weird corner of music that is almost entirely her own. Seriously, I’m coming up short on finding any artist that I can relate her music too. Well, maybe Blue Hawaii, but I’m certain they have duplicated Grimes’ sound. This is an infectious and fantastically engaging release, totally unique. Pretty high up on my AOTY list for reasons I can’t fully explain (dem vocals).