If there's one thing the music world loves, it's a kook (cue: Bowie's Kooks) and in more recent times none more-so than the female variant. Enter Canadian Claire Boucher, a performance and visual artist whose time in a bourgeoning DIY scene resulted in the birth of Grimes. A solo musical project she describes as "a quest for the ultimate sensual, mystical and cathartic experience and the vehicle for my psychic purging." You don't get that with Rihanna.
Though only two years in its infancy, she's honed an electric brand of pop across two independent releases - the cassette-only Geidi Primes and Halfaxa - that mixed the unexplored with the atmospheric. She now emerges from Montreal's underground with her latest record Visions, her first for international label 4AD. It's a logical match considering the respected British label are no strangers themselves to cultivating artists with imaginative heft to their dreamy leanings, most famously Dead Can Dance, The Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil.
Boucher's own crystalline vocals share similar genetics, swooping between each other in reverb-drenched, dream pop flight, but there's nothing retro or nostalgic about Grimes' beatific underbelly. Visions delivers bizarre futurism, as informed by Enya as Aphex Twin. Cherry-picking sounds from an eclectic range of genres, Vowels = time and space pinches sounds from early R&B and New Jack Swing, glossed against waifish vocals while Nightmusic begins with the wail of a crying baby and sampled choral music. Even Eight's ninety seconds alone contain an album's worth of peculiar sonics.
There's more stimulating sounds than songs here, but though clearly experimental, her eccentric expressions are tempered by a keen production ear. The cutting, shining synths of Be A Body seem to burst like flares across a dark lake and the bubbling keys and glitchy beat of lead single Genesis are nothing short of solid pop hooks. With a potential sleeper hit on her hands, and already possessing the kind of appeal that'll ensure cult fandom, 2012 could well be Grimes' year.
Grimes - Oblivion by Arbutus Records