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Grimes - Visions LP
Though the term "witch house" is often thrown around too loosely (and often derisively), Grimes' wispy vocals and four-on-the-floor beats are probably the closest to what the style would sound like if its name were taken literally. On Visions, Claire Boucher develops the unmistakable sound she forged on Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, where her songs hovered in space one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next. The baby-ghost vocalizing that was so distinctive and divisive there is here as well, and Boucher sounds especially like an alien pop princess on sparkly tracks like "Infinite Love Without Fulfillment," "Genesis," and "Eight," where she's shadowed by robotic backing vocals. While Visions' songs are still largely free from obvious structures -- "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" segues into a minor-key passage like a dream turning dark -- Boucher has learned the values of space and control, and gives more focus to her ethereal whimsy. While the glowing, sensuous "Skin" and "Know the Way" are fine examples of 2010s dream pop, unlike many of her contemporaries, Grimes' most danceable songs are her most unique, and allow her to draw on many different influences and sounds. "Be a Body" boasts a surprisingly funky bassline, and on "Circumambient," the song's shadowy R&B leanings are only heightened when Boucher busts out a super-soprano trill that would do Syreeta or Minnie Riperton proud. Similarly, her nods to '80s pop never feel too slavishly indebted to that decade, even when she uses stiff synth string stabs on "Oblivion" or frosty Casios on "Vowels = Space and Time," or lets "Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)" ride on a beat that sounds borrowed from "When Doves Cry." Instead, these retro winks end up bringing out the darkly rhapsodic, kinetic heart of Grimes' music as much as the Asian-tinged melodies, harps, and operatic samples she uses elsewhere. Fresh and surprisingly accessible despite its quirks, Visions is bewitching.