Modern female purveyors of electronic music – no doubt there’s a college course in the subject in the offing, with no shortage of takers for PhD dissertations thereof.
Personally, I like the fact that there seems to be somewhat of a new breed of boundary-breakers raising their heads above the parapet. Because there’s nothing worse really, is there, than yet another Singer-Songwriter/Earnest-Emo/Bjork Wannabe (delete as applicable). Two of what we might term this new breed will be visiting Ireland to play at the Forbidden Fruit Festival in Kilmainham at the beginning of June.
Grimes is Claire Boucher from Montreal. The first I heard of her was an album called Halfaxa which came out last year on Lo Recordings on this side of the world. It was dirty, scuzzy, sweet, noisy, silly and quite a few other things that made listening to it a confusing and intriguing experience overall. The album had lots of sguiggly bass key action, but still found room for a ukulele here and there. It reminded me a bit of CocoRosie, in its genre-mashing, even though it sounds nothing like that band. It smacked of someone who did not give a fuck about trends and of what might possibly be expected of a young woman setting out on a career in music (a career in music being the last thing on her mind, I would say). Now, not giving a fuck is no guarantee of quality but it’s a start, says you.
Having since stepped up a league by signing to 4AD, her new album Visions is just out. I’ve only heard a couple of tracks from it so far, but signs are that she’s taken underground club electro and given it a shine. The video for the latest single ‘Oblivion’ (below) sees Claire visiting various sports events (dirt-bike racing, American football) with her ghetto blaster and headphones, meeting fans, loitering in men’s locker rooms, eyeing up jocks, while offering the unsettling refrain “see you on a dark night” in a waif-like pixie vocal, over a squelching synth pattern and a distorted, gurning choir sample. It comes out like an inbred, distant cousin of Tiffany’s ‘I think we’re alone now’, meaning it’s a tune you could find yourself humming in the shower, despite your best efforts. Whatever about that, it’s pushing boundaries and that floats my boat.
Julia Holter is from Los Angeles and, after classical training and CalArts, has been operating in that city’s (extensive by the looks of it) underground music scene(s) for some time (I was trying to remember, I think I came across her last year on facebook, in Ryan Francesconi’s friend list). Her second album Ekstasis is just out on RVNG Intl.
At times it ploughs similar territory to dream-pop magicians Beach House, with reverb-drenched vocals against misty banks of vintage keyboard. But further listening reveals all kinds of other things going on – medieval vocal music is in there, folk music in the Joanna Newsom vein (Holter has performed live with the Linda Perhacs ensemble), the influence of sacred and devotional music. Whatever clothing the songs wear, however, they’re full of pop hooks. Not the sort that get you on Radio 1′s ‘Album of the Week’, but the sort that might make you need to lie down, contemplate the universe and happily distract you from the irrelevant shit that’s crowding your day. She’s bringing her ensemble with her on tour, consisting of cello and percussion – although fearing for her delicate music a little bit in a festival setting, I get the feeling the Kilmainham gig could be pretty strange and special.
Grimes plays the Forbidden Fruit Festival Sun June 3rd, Julia Holter Mon June 4th