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Indie-electro in the shape of visual artist/singer/songwriter/musician Claire Elise Boucher (given name GRIMES), the world of experimental pop music became aware of her organic talents on hearing her 4th album, `Art Angels’, late in 2015. Rewinding back the years to 2009, the kooky Canadian lass (born March 17, 1988, Vancouver) was making sweet ’n’ sour music as she read papers on neuroscience at Montreal’s McGill University; some of these sounds from her Lab Synthese period and subsequent shows at a nearby textile factory led her to be expelled from her studies.
A blessing in disguise, GRIMES would quickly put together a limited-edition cassette of her work, entitled GEIDI PRIMES (2010) {*8}. Featuring her own creepy sleeve artwork, the set was later released on CD south of the Canadian border, while across in Britain (the following August), a bona fide album was given the green light. Only 30 minutes in total, her twee but spectral structures of hypnotic rhythms mirrored her zombie-fied voxtones. There was a certain simplistic, YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS feel about the imaginative `Rosa’, `Zoal, Face Dancer’ and atmospheric opener `Caladan’, whilst the kooky `Sardaukar Levenbrech’ plucked pizzicato strings and a wailing wall of sounds from an imaginary movie from the Orient. In stark contrast, `Grisgris’, was a piano-led blackboard-scratcher that underlined her ability to pitch her larynx high above the clouds.
On a crest of an ethereal wave, the shadowy and staccato HALFAXA (2010) {*7} was one-part ENYA to four-parts LYKKE LI (at a push); her visionary pop and flighty femininity realised on the quasi-shamanic `World… Princess’, `Dream Fortress’, `Devon’ and other anti-font-pressing ditties. Using her spirit-raising voice as an incoherent instrument in order to soften the harsh undercurrents of her spacey synth strokes (e.g. `Intor / Flowers’), there was much to look forward to from this pop-headed pixie.
Deep in the forests of her mind and sharing her next venture with fellow visual artist D’EON, the `Darkbloom’ EP convinced the ethereally-minded 4 a.d. Records to take a punt – had Ivo been missing the COCTEAU TWINS? Spooky and almost ready-made for filmic purposes, here Claire played the enchanted princess-in-the-tower to a tee, serving up floaty and frisky captions like `Vanessa’, `Crystal Ball’, `Urban Twilight’ and `Hedra’.
2012’s VISIONS {*8} re-tuned the shrilling and shrieking Boucher back into Planet GRIMES, despite her trippy, robotic attempts of spraying it all over in a twee, dream-pop undercoat. Pushing the envelope out with dance-floor beats and 80s electro/R&B, the weird lass of the “witch house” movement was at her most effective on the pert and perky `Eight’ and the bouncy `Genesis’, `Oblivion’, `Circumambient’, `Colour Of Moonlight’ (featuring Doldrums) and `Nightmusic’ (alongside Majical Cloudz).
Having garnered numerous awards and healthy sales figures for her previous set, GRIMES finally re-surfaced in 2015 with the ground-breaking ART ANGELS {*8}. A near transatlantic Top 30 record that encompassed all her weirdly wonderful traits, reviewers all over the globe salivated on her sonic spine-tingling songs that were both catchy and enchanting. Intelligent pop that drew in fed-up fans from the GAGA or GOULDING camps, 4 a.d. Records had finally an artist to shout about. A chameleonic and charismatic anti-pop star, the tracks that stood out from the pack were the collaborative `SCREAM’ (a breathy, Japanese-styled ditty with Aristophanes), `Venus Fly’ (with hip-hop lass Janelle Monae), `Flesh Without Blood’, `Belly Of The Beat’ and, surely a song destined to be a hit in its own right, the flighty `California’.
The much in-demand Boucher duly collaborated on The Acid Reign Chronicles alongside singer-songwriter HANA as well as featuring on works by MONAE, Jimmy Urine’s electro-punk side-project Euringer, and Poppy’s `Am I A Girl?’; a busy lady indeed.
A sonic-synth soothsayer or indeed political prophet, the surreal GRIMES coincidentally chipped in with her take on the apocalypse; albeit “last year’s news” concerning the threat of climate change a la early 2020’s MISS ANTHROPOCENE {*8}. As the troubled world turned uneasy each new day with the growing all-too-real coronavirus cases and deaths, Top 10 act Claire was warning of another threat… but way, way down the proverbial line. Nevertheless, no matter the impending end-of-the-world time scale, correlation could certainly be pinned to the poignant `So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth’, the explicit `Darkseid’ (feat. Pan Wei-Ju), the PRODIGY-styled `4ÆM’ (sampling Bajirao Mastano’s “Deewani Mustani”), the poppy `You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around’, the ghostly `Before The Fever’ and the uplifting `Violence’ (feat. i_o).
© MC Strong/MCS Dec2015-Feb2020

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