Review Summary: See you on a dark night.
Calling Grimes’ latest LP “Dream Pop” would be marginally fitting, given her atmospheric sounds, thumping drum machine beats and broad, looming synthesizers that would make for a dreamy and also poppy affair. Damn, it would be a much better tagline than “Post-Internet”. But Claire Boucher has composed herself a blend of all these elements but gives them a spooky, ghoulish coating that unexpectedly gets you at the core when really paying attention. In the dorkiest way possible, Visions can possibly be the first ever release in the “Nightmare Pop” genre.
All of the sounds on this album come from tried and true vintage drum machines and ancient midi keyboards, or one would think it so. Most of Visions is reminiscent to 1980s chart hits from a time when the keyboard was used for more than progressive rock accompaniment. In a cheap, two-cents way, this is pretty much a Madonna album that was self-written, self-produced, and had some experimentation on board. amongst all of the gear, the albums most quintessential instrument is Claire’s pixie-esque falsetto which is, 90 percent of the time, is slathered in reverb or on some occasions ran through a vocoder. It’s another case of the vocals becoming more than just lyrics holding a note and rather a means to make a stronger emotional or creative impact upon the listener, which is a hit or miss depending on musical taste or what you value most in singing. Yes the reverb does make the vocals intangible, but Claire’s vocals at their cleanest still sound nice and are still contributing to the albums dizzying atmosphere.
Back to the ghoulishness I was talking about. Some artists have a knack for taking something cute and cuddly and turning it into a monster. Grimes does it that way and vice versa. Songs like “Circumambient”, and “Colour Moonlight (Antiochus)” go on their way sucking in the listener with its catchy vibe, only to transform with a dissonant synth chord or some creepy yet cool vocal looping. The morbid yet bubbly standout “Oblivion” has Claire second guessing herself while strolling out at night, expecting someone to attack but giving a blind eye. This should be unsettling but the song is so tooth-achingly catchy, it becomes your most guilty pleasure, excluding Toddlers and Tiaras and japanese porn. “Nightmusic” starts off with a very haunting vocal choir, but when it seems all of the mood is gone, it comes back a full force with the use of a massive amount of gain on the vocals and synths giving it some of the albums most ghost-like qualities. Even when all seems emotionally stationary like on the sultry “Skin”, Grimes has some way to make things change so uniformly.
That’s not to say that this is a hard listen, because that is definitely not the case. Its still some catchy, well comprised, hyper-ambient pop. You can use it as a laidback break from listening to the latest Julianna Barwick or even the latest Tim Hecker, just to be able to relax while still giving your ears a sonic workout. This is also for those who want a break from the dreamiest of Dream pop acts like M83 or Beach House and would rather opt for the dark side from time to time.