Programmed drum beats? check. Synth back line laid on top? check. Multi-looped layered vocals? check. To distill Grimes’ music into to such simplistic terms may be a touch harsh, though by no means is this description mutually exclusive with liking the album ‘Visions’. Which i do. Though with caveats. It is an album that has plenty of beautiful moments, and pop-tastic catchy hooks for sure, but the first few listens left me feeling slightly empty, if you know what i mean. But I’ll give it a fair hearing, theres always the chance of it being a ‘grower’.
Throughout the album, there is a somewhat formulaic song structure that pervades, and by the third track, ‘Oblivion’, this becomes clear, noticeable and slightly distracting. Though this is, conversely, one of my favorite tracks. Grimes’ childlike and haunted vocal lines have more than a hint of the 80’s classic ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, but the lyrical content -
And now another clue,
I would have ,
If you could help me out,
It’s hard to understand,
Cause when you’re really by yourself,
it’s hard to find someone who Understands,
And now it’s gonna be, tough on me
But I will wait forever
I need someone else to look into my eyes
and tell me girl you know you
Gotta watch your health -
suggests that there may be hidden depths to what initially sounds like a slightly highjacked version of a pop gold hit. Other songs - ‘Color Moonlight (Antichus) for example - do better to demonstrate Grimes’ impressive vocal range that would rival a young Mariah Carey - if you could bear to remember Careys’ warbling falsetto irritations for long enough to use it as a point of reference. Whilst others are more dulcet in tone, and have a chanting druid-esque quality to them. ‘Nightmusic’ was another highlight to the album, with cleaner vocals, a lighter touch on the looping pedal, and a rough synth line for body. Its possibly the most balanced of tracks of the thirteen. But all this is on a purely aural level, whilst Grimes’ effectively views herself more as an artist - with the visuals and the live performance aspect of her shows being on a similar plane of importance to the music. Which brings me to another thought, and a dissection of not only the actual music, but the underlying inspiration for it.
Grimes’ own description of her music and the process of making it goes as follows : “it is the only means through which I can be fully expressive. It is both an ethereal escape from, and a violent embrace of my experience. The creative process is a quest for the ultimate sensual, mystical and cathartic experience and the vehicle for my psychic purging. Visions was conceived in a period of self-imposed cloistering during which time I did not see day-light. ” Which for me, edges each of the 13 songs on the album into a slightly different realm. The voice of the artist is now present, and slightly skews my aforementioned opinion. By virtue of the fact that there is a voice, a mindset and a set of experiences behind what at first appears to be electro pop frivolity. Empathy and recognition are definite facets of what makes music special to people, makes them hold it tighter, and value it all the more. I don’t see this album being that will go down in the annals of my musical history with any degree of heightened recognition, but its decent, quality electro pop, and seemingly, with a bit of a dark soul.
(And actually, to be honest, just as i wrote that I was whistling the hook to ‘Oblivion’. Typical!)