Claire Boucher’s Montreal-based solo project Grimes often elicits comparison with Nite Jewel’s Ramona Gonzales. To an extent, the association is understandable: both display a love for hip-hop, pop and R&B, refracted into gauzy, celestial electronics; both favour the use of loops; both have one foot firmly planted in the art world (Boucher is also a visual artist and video director); and now, with this reissue of Boucher’s 2010 debut Geidi Primes, they also share a label in No Pain In Pop. However, there is a darkness and more abject strangeness present in the Grimes sound that Gonzales has never quite approached. With interest in Boucher’s music kindled further by her two 2011 releases – the full-length Halfaxa, released in February, and the Dark Bloom EP, a 12″ split with fellow Montrealer d’Eon released in April – it feels only right that Geidi Primes is allowed to exist beyond its original incarnation as a very limited cassette tape and free download.
At the time of the album’s release, Boucher professed that she was making “technically limited” music, where “every song is 4/4, most are 120 bpm and most are in the key of C”. Despite these constraints, Geidi Primes feels surprisingly expansive, full of vast space, echoing piano refrains, reverb-fused vocals and waves of sparse, trance-inducing electronica that infuse the songs with a starry, galactic atmosphere. It’s a dreamy, frequently eerie effect that’s augmented by the album’s strange titles, many of which are lifted directly from Frank Herbert’s sci-fi ‘Dune’ world. There’s a delicate weirdness here that’s both enchanting and inventive, and gradually makes itself known. ‘Gambang’, for example, knits together lo-fi charm with a baroque aesthetic, spinning a crackling, accelerated cassette sample into a beautiful chamber pop oddity. End song ‘Beast Infection’ follows this classical trope to ambient effect, billowing out with soft, barely-there bass, faintly sawing violins and peals of soaring, operatic vocals nicked in places with glitchy FX, while the evolving, swooshing synth currents, buzzing strings and dragged-out marching beats of ‘Shadout Mapes’ hint at an otherworldly, almost alien presence.
Boucher blooms across Geidi Primes in icy-sweet lisping coos, often softening the edges of her diction into impressionistic strokes of sound, from choral harmonies and gentle chanting to the Oriental-sounding mew that presides across the taut Chinese strings of ‘Sardaukar Levenbrech’. It’s a morphing style that fits with the record’s shifting moods: melancholy on ‘Rosa’, with its gypsy organs and infectious tempo, deliciously creepy on ‘Shadout Mapes’, and romantically direct on standout number ‘Feyd Rautha Dark Heart’ with its low, insistent bass and passionate, pop-hook promise of “I wont break your heart in the dark”. Boucher’s looped and layered instrumentation is intimate, imperfect and artful enough to feel handmade, free of the sometimes clinical symmetry of other electronic acts. The consistency of her beats recalls the fuzzy beatbox-style percussion regularly employed by CocoRosie and helps in grounding the songs, most notably ‘Grisgris’, with its fizzing, empyreal synths, and on the whirring, magical dance whomp of ‘Zoal, Face Dancer’. It’s easy to feel a little lost in the wafting, transcendental layers of even these more cogent songs, but the nebulous nature of Geidi Primes is key to its appeal.
[No Pain In Pop; August 8, 2011]