Spin Out: Grimes' "Genesis"

Tuneage // Cristina Black // 04/03/12
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Claire Boucher of Grimes
Claire Boucher of Grimes

To prepare for the making of her new album, Visions, Claire Boucher took cues from a personal hero of hers, Hildegard of Bingen. “She would do really crazy things like meditate and fast and have these…visions,” says Boucher of the medieval Christian mystic. “So I locked myself in my room for three weeks. I blacked out the windows. I let myself go a little crazy.”

Boucher’s work as the electro-weirdo-pop act Grimes does have a kind of otherworldly quality to it. Despite the club-worthy beats she builds on, her echo-y vocals sometimes recall the skeletal strains of Gregorian chant, and that’s no accident. Especially for the entrancing song “Genesis,” Boucher drew inspiration from her orthodox Catholic childhood. “I’m not religious at all now,” she explains, “but I went to this school where we didn’t learn anything because we were always in church. I just remember sitting there with the choir singing in Latin in this reverb chamber. I wrote this song to replace that feeling. Because it was nice.”

“Genesis” perfectly encapsulates the mystical sound Boucher cooked up as a member of the Montreal art-loft scene. Originally from Vancouver, she decamped to the east of Canada in 2006 and quickly found Lab Synthése, a 4500-square-foot textile factory repurposed as a multimedia creators’ haven. Experimenting with pop production and punk ethics over a series of releases since 2010, Boucher arrived at an exciting new style that references Janet Jackson and TLC as heavily as Enya and Aphex Twin.

With her high, piercing voice at the fore, she creates tracks that come together unexpectedly, almost magically, with more emphasis on raw feeling than musical theory. The intro for “Genesis,” for instance, is her playing just the black keys on a synth in a pattern that ascends and descends ethereally, setting the tone for a track inspired as much by religion as young love. “I went out and met this guy and totally fell in love with him and came home and wrote it,” says Boucher, a dreamy excitement in her voice. “But now we’re bitter enemies!”

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Originally published in April/May 2012

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