Grimes Brings House Music To Twin Peaks

Oct 19th, 2015 | By | Category: Reviews, The Best New Old Thing

Visions by Grimes 20cdreviews

Visions by Grimes 20cdreviews

I had no idea who she was, had never even heard of her. In her early 20s, but so petite she looked like she was still in her teens, she disappeared when she took her place amidst the racks of electronic equipment deposited at the front of the stage. Only her head and shoulders were visible above them, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, short bleached blonde bangs topping her beaming face. She flipped a switch to drop a beat. Hit a few keys on her keyboards and a melody line joined the beat. She started singing while fiddling more with her equipment, looping the falsetto vocals, creating a chorus of little girl voices. Her hand came out over the keyboards and started tracing patterns in the air, rising and falling with the music, like she was conducting herself. I was very glad I had shown up early enough to see Grimes as the warm up for Lykke Li.

After the show, I bought both of her CDs at the merch table, Halfaxa and Darkbloom, her split-EP with d’Eon. As much as I like them and as many times as I’ve played them, they were not the sound that had captured me at the show. Her label, Arbutus, claimed for the former the dubious honor of being “arguably one of the first witch-house or lo-fi R&B releases.” More the former than the latter. There was very little R&B on that album, lo-fi or other-fi. In fact, it’s not far from the wrapped in gauze sound of her future label, 4AD.

In other words, it’s far closer in sound to Lykke Li than what Grimes actually played while fronting for her. Grimes had clearly moved on from that sound. There were hints of the new sound on the Darkbloom EP. Elements of synth R&B started to appear, especially on “Orphia” and “Vanessa.” But those were tentative steps compared to what she played live. The new beats were far more upbeat, the tunes much poppier, fulfilling her self-applied label of “goth pop.” If you can imagine a goth with a huge grin.

Visions caught up to that amazing sound (ironically leaving the 4AD sound behind on this 4AD co-release). Many of her new rhythms came from progressive house like Orbital (particularly her “Circumambient”) and Aphex Twin, whom she name checked in interviews. But her sing-songy looped voice increasingly drew on more pop sources, old electropop like Bananarama, turn of the century R&B produced by Timbaland or Neptunes. With her vocals sometimes sounding a lot like Julee Cruise the overall effect was “House Music comes to Twin Peaks,” as on “Oblivion.”

The lyrics on Visions aren’t deep, when you could understand them at all, mostly repeated phrases, but the sound of her voice adds another compelling instrument to the mix. She sounds like a bunch of primary school girls singing a round, but this ain’t no “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Frere Jacques.” Like so many then-current Arthouse musicians, she drew from the past, but put the past elements together in novel ways to create a unique sound all her own.

I’m looking  forward to seeing  her live again next month. Maybe there will even be a new album soon.

This is a slightly edited version of a review that originally appeared on MTHRFNKR (February 2012)


  • Artist: Grimes
  • Album: Visions
  • Year of Release: 2012
  • Year of first hearing: 2012
  • Label: 4AD
  • Format listened to: CD
  • Track listing
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