Grimes – Visions (Arbutus Records/4AD)
By Wallace Wylie
I find the current fascination with K-Pop among certain sections of the indie universe slightly disconcerting. This is probably because I think the vast majority of American people who get excited about K-Pop are white males in their late twenties who read Manga in their teens and masturbated regularly to Anime porn. Their ideal woman is ridiculously skinny, childlike in their enthusiasm about everything, and has zero pubic hair. Males of this kind seem to shrink at the idea of a surly, sweaty, menstruating woman who doesn’t light up with excitement the moment somebody mentions video games. These guys probably have an ironic mustache but deny that it’s ironic. I suspect that there’s some deep fascination with the otherness of Asian culture, as well as a certain amount of ironic enjoyment at seeing non-Western countries attempt some variation on crass Western pop music. As always the word ‘awesome’ will be used a ridiculous amount of times. I can’t prove any of this, but then again I’m not writing a scientific paper so I don’t particularly care.
I mention all this because K-Pop’s influence is all over the new Grimes album Visions. Grimes is the stage name of Canadian Claire Boucher. Her manipulated vocals can often sound pre-pubescent and there are times, as on ‘Nightmusic’, where she sounds like she is trying to imitate a Korean accent, which is more than a little off-putting. As with the vast majority of modern music, the words have no inherent meaning other than to enhance the mood. Visions sounds very much of its time, in the sense that it appears to take indie music’s current trend for synth/80s pop and weld it to K-Pop. It really shouldn’t work, but I find myself enjoying much of the music even if I find the vocal affectations an irritant at times.
I expect plenty on internet chat in regards to Boucher’s looks. This happens when you’re a woman and especially a woman connected in some way to ‘indie’ music. Many male indie writers immediately become suspicious of attractive women, feeling both exploited and powerless when faced with physical beauty. They tend to chastise women for “playing up to traditional notions of what is expected of women in a patriarchal society” or something like that, as if women aren’t smart enough to know what they’re doing, while also acting like every action a woman partakes should push all women forward in some way. There will most likely be grumblings along the lines of “nobody would care if she weren’t attractive”. Men know what’s best, you see, and they can spot a woman exploiting her femininity for personal gain a mile away. Conniving women beware! Didn’t Mark E. Smith once say that half-educated people are the most dangerous of all?
So, anyway, back to the lecture at hand. With each listen, Visions seduces me a little more, yet at the same time, I know I will never truly love it. It feels like a very well executed work that lacks an emotional core; great for doing the dishes to but if your focus is only the music then you’re likely to feel somewhat entertained but somehow empty. It skims along pleasantly but resists any in-depth reading. Hence why I don’t give any. It reeks of having nothing to say but says it in a nice enough way. It’ll most likely be huge.