With spring approaching, a time for stripping away the winter layers and shedding excess, I am reminded of everything I like about Montreal’s indie music scene with Grimes’s new record. Without the polish or pressure of a major record label to create a pop hit, Grimes naturally writes electronic music, which is a fresh, yet somewhat naked change from some of the shiny electronic mega-hits that currently dominate Billboard charts. In fact, we live in a time when a major electronic pop recording has two top twenty hits charting at the same time; one by the original artist and a cover version by the cast of Glee. The major publishers are laughing all the way to the bank, and the regular music consumer is inundated with generic, sterile and gratuitously formulaic pop songs.
The underground electronic movement in Montreal is a reflection of Montreal’s vibe and is evidenced by the more rooted authentic art that its artists curate. Parvati was my first introduction to cool underground Montreal electronica. Since then I have kept my ear close to the electronic heartbeat of Montreal to see what else this Euro-North American city is cultivating. Arbutus Records’ Claire Boucher, who performs by the name Grimes, is one such artist.
Grimes’s new record is called Vision and compared with generic electronic pop schlock it is all about stripping away excess and still sounding good, even if the songwriting or production may be imperfect. Even the album cover is about stripping away excess. It’s literally a bare bones, black and white illustrated cover that at first glance looks like a punk rock tattoo circa 1974. Yet if you look closely you will see it is laden with mythical, religious and mysterious symbols. The human skull, reminiscent of the ultimate destroyer, Kali, is even wearing a rose and star crown symbolizing a flowering after death. The cover depicts a crying alien. When I think of a crying alien I also think of alien-ation. Whenever I feel like alienated or that I do not belong, forgetting that I am part of a vast interconnected whole, I too feel like crying. Also on the album cover is a Tibetan prayer bell, and the eye of Horus, which was a symbol of protection, royal power and good health.
Grimes calls her music “post-Internet” which makes sense, considering it is a mix of many sounds and ideas that is full of possibility. Her sound is a bit like what happens when I run low on cereal: a selective mix of a whole bunch of things thrown together that usually turns out to be a great breakfast. Grimes mixes punk, pop, electronic and lyrical with production ideas that have hints of Swedish dance artist Robyn and Swedish electronic artist The Knife. It feels inspired like Germany’s Kraftwerk. I like the way she explores dark themes yet somehow makes reference to love and light.
I have listened to this record on repeat throughout the past couple of weeks and still find joy in the songs, and in an age of post-Internet, capturing and retaining an audience’s attention is no easy feat. To hear a sample of her music, check out the video of her song Oblivion.
Rishi Gerald is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. He describes Kupid’s Play like this: “Kupid’s Play is the Sound of the I Am Revolution. As an international record label devoted to raising global consciousness we bring awakened artists to the commercial mainstream. Our vision extends beyond a traditional record label. We know impossibilities are not real and build non-traditional revenue models by embracing new technologies in the current economic landscape. We know music is everywhere. Kupid’s Play actively seeks out creative opportunities to get its artists’ music to their fans in new ways ensuring that the Sound of the I Am Revolution is heard.” With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.