With the re-release of the rapidly approaching pop-star Grimes’s debut LP, it’s worth taking another listen to what is the meticulously constructed foundation of an exciting career.
‘Geidi Primes’ is a short album, filled with brief and breathless songs. Hushed, restrained and careful, it is a measured masterpiece, showing the beginnings of Montreal-based Claire Boucher’s now well-known ability to hold her listener hanging on a precipice. Listening back to this wide-eyed debut after two soul-searching and sound-bending follow-ups, ‘Halfaxa’ and ‘Darkbloom’, the consistent, definitive aspects of Grimes’ sound can, even now, be picked out. There is a dam of emotion behind Boucher’s singing, something which she allows to seep through in snippets rather than waves; quiet and fragile, she controls her voice down to the last syllable, refusing to allow it to overpower or overwhelm the other elements of each track. It is this magical, delicate attention, characteristic of all three albums, which ties the booming rumbles, fearful tinkles and crackling guitars of ‘Geidi Primes’ into a patchwork quilt of short, simple musical ideas, woven expertly into something that sounds exactly right.
The fuzzy, white-noise drumbeat of Grisgirs stands out as an example of one of the many musical jigsaw pieces that ‘Geidi Primes’ offers its listener; the marching beat is slotted together improbably with some subtle piano, Boucher’s wavering voice and a light smattering of synth, building towards a unified, glorious ending. Elsewhere, in Sardaukar Levenbrech, the vocals are mere howls and coos, forgetting language and slipping easily into the musical maelstrom. Boucher tactfully places herself within her musical narrative without detracting from it – in Sardaukar Levenbrech, she is shunning the lead role, making herself merely another element of sound, and one which is made interchangeable with the groaning strings. This idea of being in amongst the music rather than creating it is one that spreads through every inch of Grimes; press photos are frequently conceptual collages, rather than straightforward shots of the artist herself, and interviews are scarce. This is an artist who sinks so far into her music that it seems impossible to define her without taking a listen, without searching for her amongst the fragments she has laid out for her listener as clues.
The easiest track to enjoy on the album is Rosa – sunken voice and plodding bass-line fall comfortably into one another to create something that can be settled into quickly. Overlapping vocals and light-fingered beats later join the equation to flesh this out as a composition of echoes, accumulating rapidly until there is nothing left but that bass-line, still pounding out the same notes, still insistent. The trick of ‘Geidi Primes’ is that the ideas are simple enough to reveal themselves quickly, and repetition is never left long enough to become dull. You’re only just starting to get it, and then – something new.
Essentially – and this an album of essences, of fundamentals – Grimes laid out her musical ideals in her debut, showing the world what she is about by snatching pieces of pop history and stringing them out on a line together. In a carefully ordered, meticulously arranged system which is shocking from someone with little background in music, Claire Boucher introduced herself with an album which orders her passions, which categorises her influences, and which the listener can digest in slices each under four minutes long, convenient and compact. Such long sentences seem inappropriate to explain what it is that ‘Geidi Primes’ does. It just takes interesting noises, and makes an interesting record out of them. It just works.