To say that Canadian solo artist Clare Boucher, aka Grimes, has been prolific over the past two years is the very definition of understatement. While neither of her first two albums arrived perfectly crafted, they displayed a distinct voice and progression of style and mood. This growth as an artist leads us smoothly to her third full length outing, Visions, her most accomplished and polished offer to date.
Shadows of Geidi Primes and Halafaxa dance across Visions but the album vibrates with nuance and progressive thinking. With her vocals displaying their trademark strength of range and emotion, it’s the music they are intertwined with that serves as her main point of growth as an artist. It’s not that it has become more linear or structured – the multiple vocals and dark disco of the aptly titled ‘Circumambient’ portray a feverish intensity, which the duelling layers bounce around the listeners head – but there is a focus on this album that was lacking in its predecessors. With the damp, resounding drums littered throughout the album, most tracks are as suited to the dance floor as they are the home stereo. Considering the breadth of style and emotion on display, it’s testament to her talent that she creates a sound that’s uniform but also differs from song to song.
Maybe that is the hook here: Visions is the first album of the year to be truly interesting at every turn; even though there are obvious influences (everything from dubstep to lo-fi breakbeat features here) it never feels anything less than new with every track making you stop and take note of the various layers and elements. Her abstract lyrics create a sense of mood and emotion, never falling short in furthering the ambience of the tracks. ‘Be a Body’, for example, musters a robotic dirge around her voice, rising and falling from gothic thunder to ’80s pop with seamless ease, a trick utilised on the more down-tempo but no less beautiful ‘Symphonia IX’. Usually an artist that careens through this variation of style during one album will unhinge at some point, but Grimes manages to always hold the various pieces of her aesthetic together.
Whiles Boucher’s previous output fell short in delivering a rounded idea of what the artist was about, they also showed serious promise. Visions makes good on this promise, creating clarity through diversity, proving that Grimes is one talent to keep a very close eye on.