GRIMES – Halfaxa

Arbutus Records*

Buy digitally style and reminiscent of krautrock. On Halfaxa and indeed perhaps more so on the debut, lyrics are secondary to the creation of atmosphere and Boucher herself admits that writing lyrics is not something she overly enjoys, certainly not to the point of overshadowing the music. Words are cheap so the saying goes.

First single ‘Weregild’ demonstrates aptly how Boucher uses her voice as instrumentation. Beginning with a high pitched parlour game sound, its soon hits its stride with a reverb drenched 4/4 beat, a spooky yet strangely comforting backing synth and looped vocal sounds and arrangements that wash over the listener like crashing waves. ‘Sagrad’ begins with a further demonstration of that vocal power married with string orchestration before giving way to an infectious dance beat and repetitively subtle yet hypnotic synth bursts. Boucher’s echoed ooh’s also add another dimension.

‘Devon’ begins an exquisite trio of songs that form Halfaxa’s middle section and begins with a latin style beat before transforming into two distinct pieces of dream pop. Sitting underneath is a tinge of industrial which shouldn’t meld well together but does. Indeed, it’s essential. The second installment, the spectacularly gorgeous ‘Dream Fortress’ features Boucher’s vocals soaring above a a sort of funky marching beat and the last of the trio, ‘World Princess’ begins woozily but menacingly and that off-kilter feel stays throughout the track as the vocals exude their signature cute warmth. Each of the three distinct tracks are interelated and share melody and form – a suite of songs if you like that could easily come together to form one.

Heading into the album’s final third, ‘Swan Song’ is a infecting piece of dance-pop complete with a rumblingly consistent beat and a vocal hook that will capture your attention instantly. ‘My Sister Says The Saddest Things’ has at its core a scatty beat that possesses a sense of urgency and reaches its full form when the snare sound arrives giving the track added power. The purpose of ‘Hallways’ almost seems reflective, a reprisal of sorts that scoops up the aforementionedly heard contents and lays them out in a ordered fashion for further exploration. The interlude tracks that cut the album up into thirds also seem to perform the same function.

Make no mistake, Halfaxa is a groundbreaking album, accessible in its inaccessibility; that is the key to what makes it so good. While that may not make sense on the surface, the meaning is deliberately as abstract as the content of the album itself, left open to exploration and interpretation. Boucher’s ability to meld together a variety of styles and tempos into a seemingly effortless tapestry of imagery and atmosphere is testament to her growing ability. That this ability has shone through so quickly in someone so young suggests that Claire Boucher has in her artistic keeping something both tangible and intangible, a growing skill as a creator of music and an awareness of how important and powerful inexplicability and mystery in music can be.

James Stocker – November 20, 2010.


My Sister Says The Saddest Things

Grimes (CAN)
From the album, ‘Halfaxa’, Arbutus Records.