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Halfaxa
Grimes Halfaxa
Released 25 February 2011
Producer Claire Boucher
Label Lo Recordings
Length 52:13
Genre Electronic
Website myspace.com/boucherville
61

DIY is not a dirty word these days. It can allow productivity to flourish and help an artist find their sound without economic and cultural pressures taken their toll. No wonder so many musicians choose the sanctuary of a laptop in their bedrooms rather than wait for the great record company in the sky to take them under their wing. Grimes AKA Claire Boucher is one that seems to be benefiting from keeping her own counsel.

Halfaxa, her second self made album in under a year, is a futurist dream of the past with its embryonic abstractions and lush echoed vocals. One suspects Grimes spent many a teenage evening under headphones listening to Ambient Works era Aphex Twin and The Cocteau Twins. Although her sound is not encaged by eighties and nineties ambient dance and dream synth it is stamped with a definite post code of what went before.

The beginning of the new record moves from what could have been just ambient wallpaper to the ethereal. Her cherubic falsetto with an urban industrial drill sound minds the passage. Tracks like 'Weregild' and 'Inter/Flowers' showcase the hypnotic rhythms and the MIDI twisted vocals of Boucher.

This dark soundscape gives way to an upbeat and faster cycle in the form of 'Sagred' which signals the rhythms of a river in its single note acoustic plucking without acceding to the default ambient position of Flake ad. It also aligns the artist more in the contemporary sphere of Bat for Lashes and Glasser. Towards the end of the song her angelic vocals subsides and she demonstrates her versatility with a deeper resonance.

'Dragvandil' defines the album however, it displays a work in progress tendency amongst fledging musicians. The trippy substance of the album is underlined here yet where is the imagination and innovation? The dreamy tones of Liz Frazer and other 4AD artists like Dead Can Dance are heavily indebted to on this track as well as its follow up 'Devon'. Whilst these breathy cavernous vocals can be effective it does frequently lead to repetition and downright dullness.

'Dream Fortress' finds Boucher in the neo-classical arena with violins and synth elevating the music towards an imagined soundtrack from some surrealist thriller. Despite its changeable structure you can still find irritation in the angelic otherworldly ramblings of the artist. In saying all this there can be a shamanistic quality to Grimes when she allows her lyrics to be heard above the din. A recurring groove is achieved on the latter parts of 'World (Heart) Princess' that varies from much the earlier tracks. Things are looking up for Grimes only for the momentum to fall down again on '(up) River (up)' and 'Swan Song' where breathy vocals are no substitute for innovation.

Other areas of interest come on 'My Sister Says The Saddest Things' where she does achieve some layered progression through the climactic mantra, dark synth and crunching percussion. The penultimate song 'Hallways' highlights Grimes’ vocal styling once more without ever getting somewhere interesting. There is a sense that she is trying too hard to be bewitching and eerie without having any real bones to her abstract series. But in context with the album the track itself is a slow burner and does contain one of the more audible words in the collection ‘fantasy’.

Ultimately the album relies too much on the innovators of ambient pop and electronica without putting a unique edge on the music. However while she has the time and recording access to dream up any number of songs day or night Grimes can only improve.

- Tim Gannon