Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Jon Ashley at Echo Mountain, Asheville, North Carolina
Claire Boucher seems to be the kind of girl that will always limply hand over her hand to shake. You'll greet the paw with a crunch and she'll take it back slowly, withdrawing it from view, either back behind her or back into a pocket. She's a wisp of a girl, tiny and, you could say, frail. She appears to be the kind of person who could happily sit around in sweats or big sweaters and just fold herself into the couch for weeks or months on end, immersed or consumed with any number of personal obsessions, getting closer every day to something that's she's been hearing in her head for a good amount of time.
Obviously, here as Grimes, the Canadian musician has focused on the weird and hyper-moody, experimental electronic and rhythm and blues music that she's got casually nudging her from the insides. She might be made of the guts and intestines of lava lamps, the rollicking and slow-motion flowing of a glowing substance that's working its way slowly through her body like an old lady driving on the interstate. It's that glowing substance -- whatever it is -- that she lets out and into her music. It's just enough light to give us something to look at, but most of the time we're surely just letting her strange energy affect us in whatever way it would like.
Most of the time, we're caught up in the thought that we're intruding on something extremely personal. It's like we've just suddenly walked into a room where someone was naked and yet they haven't seen us yet so we try to slip out, backwards and quietly, so that the bare person never had any idea that someone had been in the room with them. The conflict here is, what if that naked body was one that looked good from where we stood and we secretly wanted to see more of it, social embarrassment or not? What if we didn't care if we got caught? What if the only person who was going to feel any kind of awkwardness was the other person, that unknowing side of flesh and hair? This causes a problem, but it's what we hear in these songs -- a situation that cannot be reasoned with, just lived on the fly. We will do what we will do and so will the naked person.
Grimes music is so raw and emotional and uncharacteristically tender, with Boucher barely registering her words, rather lobbing them at us like smokey whispers, or shadows and fog. Her words sound like balm, even when they're about horrible hurt. They are songs that steady us, that might make some of us who are more inclined, want to dance a little, but others would find that they do a remarkable job of calming our heart rates, getting us to feel steadier and better suited to holding our howls and screams in, for as long as we both shall live.
This session was recorded two autumns ago -- in 2011 -- in Asheville, North Carolina, during Halloween weekend, when the Moog Fest was taking over the city. Boucher spent hours at the studio, sharing beers with us and Dev Hynes. These songs were in their younger days as they were taped.
*Essay originally published July, 2011