Grimes is back with her first album in five years and third for 4AD. Miss Anthropocene contains the singles 'Violence' and 'So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth', which you may have heard on t'wireless. It is the follow up to the brilliant Art Angels - an album so good that former Normanite, Robin, gave it a 9/10 review back in 2015. Features collaborations with 潘PAN & i_o on some proper pop bangers.
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Look, I know. I know it's complicated, liking Grimes these days - because of the fact that she asks her friends to call her ‘c’ (the symbol for the speed of light), because she says stuff like she wants to “make climate change fun”, because of the whole Elon Musk thing. Recent years have seen Claire Boucher’s public persona morph from Happy Tree Friends-esque anarcho-pixie into a sort of Terminator-sprite figure, her deference for our robot overlords shown in questionable moves like having surgery on her eyes to remove the human imperfection of Seasonal Affective Disorder (for real).
While Boucher appears to wholeheartedly embrace the techno future in person, her music as Grimes has always been more freighted, rife with Silicon Valley paranoia. Never has this been more apparent than on new LP ‘Miss Anthropocene’. The record's opening tracks cast both her and the listener out somewhere beyond the cyberpunk frontier.
‘So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth’ is an extremely atmospheric opening cut, its etherised trip-hop inflection coming off like an information-age Massive Attack. Banksy will be pleased. Up next is ‘Darkseid’, another digi-human frenzy backed by a monstrous beat. Guest 潘PAN whirls your head with breathless ranting while Grimes hovers like an angel of death in the background. This is genuinely, thrillingly unsettling stuff, cyborg Kawaii for the end of the world.
Gorillaz ‘Demon Days’, an album whose protagonists simultaneously mourned what was left behind in their semi-fictional digi-world and also revelled in the stench of a scorched earth, is a good point of comparison for ‘Miss Anthropocene’. While there's a multi-genre maximalism at work throughout, the link between the albums is actually most explicit in 'Miss Anthropocene's ballads. ‘Delete Forever’ is the ‘Feel Good Inc.’ number, a hyperreal Americana lilt whose Uncanny Valley guitar strums seem to be searching, we sense in vain, for something real amid all the synthesis.
'Miss Anthropocene's valium-hazed centrepiece ‘New Gods’ is even better. Over a Vegas-on-the-moon piano backing Grimes wrestles with giving in to something she doesn’t quite understand - lyrics like “take me higher and higher and higher”, “what can I do if I can’t see you?” and “reaching out for new gods” imply both resigned acceptance of, and a wish to escape, the unstoppable march of her age.
Apart from ‘New Gods’, ‘Miss Anthropocene’ channels the neurosis of digitalia into neo-pop mania in its midsection. ‘Violence’ and ‘My Name Is Dark’ streamline those early tracks into a kind of souped-up take on the quixotic synth-pop of ‘Visions’. While these feel a little slight in comparison to the information overload of the early cuts, ‘You’ll miss me when I’m not around’ fares better, couching nastiness in sweetness with classic Grimes flair. Better still is ‘4ÆM’ - the way this song suddenly shifts gear from nervy dembow into a kind of kawaii-trance/drum ‘n’ bass thing brings to mind the slow climb and white-knuckle descent of a rollercoaster ride.
‘Miss Anthropocene’ ends with ‘IDORU’, a track which offers something like closure by pushing on through from the dawn chorus end-passage of ‘So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth’. With its piped birdsong and bright chords, ‘IDORU’ hints at a more comfortable acceptance of Boucher's position as an organic being in a synthetic age. The singularity has arrived, and it is up to you to say ‘this is who/where I am’ within it (it’s unclear if Grimes sings ‘where’ or ‘who’ here, but if anything this ambiguity strengthens the point). If you figure that out, then Grimes assures us that, in these times, ‘we can play a beautiful game’.
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- Miss Anthropocene by Grimes
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