Saturday, October 10, 2015

Visions | Grimes

Some albums have this wonderful ability to make you completely obsessed with an artist's music and can be repeated several times without ceasing to impress. Visions is one of those albums. It's the third LP from the ever-so-unique electronic artist Grimes (born Claire Boucher), who caught my attention when I saw her open for a Lana Del Rey show last summer. I bought a copy of Visions only a couple weeks later, and gradually, I fell in love with basically every track.

The little introductory song "Infinite Love Without Fulfilment" kicks off the album in such a generally happy way, contrasting with the cover, as it looks like it could be the cover of an angsty punk band with the skull in the center. The girly, light vocals are heavily layered, and eventually the song becomes more mysterious, hypnotic. It's strange, kind of cute, kind of dark... I guess that's Grimes in a nutshell.

This leads us to "Genesis," the first full track, which is infused with echoey synths that initially made me visualize an underwater setting. The repetitive lyrics are as beautiful as the instrumentation, which just builds and builds as it goes. Eventually harps and a piano are added in the electronic mix, and it feels so lighthearted and beautiful... "Genesis" is the sound a soul makes when someone is so happy they could cry, it's the sound a heart makes when it flutters. I've never heard anything like this, and I've never run into a song that makes me feel like this. Grimes' trademark girlish vocals are the perfect fit for the pretty instrumentation. I get chills just about every time she ends with "I am the one in love" and her backing vocals layer and fade, leaving us with one last snippet of the echoing keyboard. Even though it took me a little while to truly hear "Genesis" for what it is, it is my favorite Grimes song.

"Oblivion" follows, and it's another of the seemingly examples of how Grimes can make certain aspects of a song that are repetitive not even feel repetitive because she keeps adding new interesting layers of instrumentation and vocals. The music itself is a lovely combination of dark and bubbly, but those lyrics are more intense than one would expect as Grimes tackles the concept of assault and its aftermath: "I will wait forever / Always looking straight / Thinking, counting all the hours you wait." She repeats "See you on a dark night" as the music climaxes.

These singles from Visions feel very peaceful, but that calm bubble is burst with track four's mere power. "Eight" is one of the craziest things I've ever heard in my life. It sounds like an alien invasion. The deep synthesized vocals that repeat throughout the entire song clash with Grimes' pitched voice (and considering how light her voice is without being pitched... well, it's high) to create something chaotic, but once we hear her normal voice it takes the edge off without killing the song's level of oddness. I always have to dance along when I hear this one and the song that follows, "Circumambient," in all of its darkness and catchiness, as it was the first Grimes song to stand out to me. Before we reach the second half of the album we hear "Vowels = Time and Space," which sounds bright enough to be a slowed down Aqua song.

"Visiting Statues" is like a short interlude marking the midpoint, an intermission of sorts, but it definitely stands out on its own with its light instrumentation in the spotlight. The only vocals prominent seem to mainly be backing vocals, giving the track an atmospheric feel - it's peaceful, perfect background music for writing. This song leads into "Be a Body (侘寂)," another standout with its fleeting electronic spurts and pretty, empowering lyrics: "I close my eyes until I see / I don't need hands to touch me / Be a body." The second repetition of those lyrics constitutes the part that truly made me fall in love with this song with its dark, pulsating instrumentation. The music becomes darker still with "Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)" with its prominent percussion and the instrumentation's gorgeous melodies. It's one of the calmest, ballad-like songs from Visions, and I sway every time I hear it.

The album continues to feel peaceful and relaxing with "Symphonia IX (My Wait is U)," but then things get a little chaotic with the masterpiece "Nightmusic," which is a very fitting title. In all of Grimes' music it's sometimes difficult to understand what she's saying (especially since she never released official lyrics to her songs), but "Nightmusic" owns that element. After multiple listens (forwards and reversed), I've reached the conclusion that while some of the vocals are indeed reversed and one portion actually does seem to be regular English ("Tonight's the night, I waited 'til the end" etc.), much of it is just gibberish - she truly lets us see the depths of insanity and it sounds wonderful. The synth part in the middle just before and during the regular English section is truly the climax, and as great as it is on Visions, it's even better live with new percussion and harmonies. "Nightmusic" is without a doubt one of Grimes' best.

The final full song before we reach the album's outro is "Skin," with its muted instrumentation. It took me a while to give this song a full chance since Grimes' voice is almost unbearably light in the beginning, but she slowly comes down to a more normal level during the first verse. Instrumentally it depicts loneliness very well, and lyrically... This song resonated with me on a very emotional level. The best part impresses me every time I hear it: "And you can't, and you can't, see the wind in the trees / And you can't, and you can't, see the wind in the leaves / And you can't, and you can't, see the weight in the dark / And you can't, and you can't see the weight in the heart."

"Know the Way (Outro)" kind of reminds us that we probably know the way to leave Visions and come back to reality even if we don't want to... I didn't want to. Grimes created a whole other world with this album and I love every moment of it. It's this perfect combination of light and dark, and even when I can't understand a word she's saying, the songs still manage to resonate with me. There are so many layers in her music, so there are so many ways to love it. And even though Boucher's voice is so unique and memorable, she never makes it the spotlight: It's another instrument in her wonderful sound collage.

No one else sounds like Grimes and artists rarely release albums as creative and good as Visions. By now I have I have become a huge fan, and I anxiously await her next LP, which is to be released as a surprise sometime this month. Until then, Visions will continue to be replayed.

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