Grimes, Miss Anthropocene (4AD/Rhythmethod)

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Grimes, Miss Anthropocene (4AD/Rhythmethod)

Some musicians transition from being an enjoyable pop figure into An Important Artist. Rare ones – say, Jimi Hendrix and Billie Eilish – arrive with a significant debut album, but most take time getting there.

Even David Bowie played Zelig-like roles from Beat-era r'n'b through glam pop and faux-soul before his innovative “Berlin Trilogy” in the late 70s which announced his graduation from a significant figure in pop culture to An Important Artist.

The transition in these cluttered days of ubiquitous social media is probably measured by the artist going from goofy Instagram pictures to a Guardianinterview profile.

Grimes – 31-year old Canadian Claire Boucher who studied Russian and neuroscience at Montreal's McGill University – has always delivered ambitious electronica-cum-R'n'B pop.

However her new album Miss Anthropocene sees her elevation towards the pantheon of Important Artists. It was recently anointed as The Guardian's album of the week and is made for these darker times.

In a cover as coded as the music, Miss Anthropocene takes its title from an amalgamation of “misanthrope” and the Anthropocene era, the period since humans began to impact on Earth's ecosystems.

These are big references and this, Grimes' fifth album, opens with the stentorian gloom and gloriously disorientating six minutes of So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth. It signals a desire for gravitas.

What follows are staccato drum programmes, heavily echoed sonic effects, disembodied voices, guest Pan's vocal sped up on Darkseid to convey desperation (but in Japanese) and some vague concept of a nihilistic Earth goddess.

It adds up to an experimental album to be taken seriously.

Grimes is also smart enough to include some guitar indie.pop (Delete Forever, with banjo) and banging but obvious drum'n'bass on 4AM which invokes Aphrodite and has weirdly exotic samples appropriated from the 2015 Bollywood song Deewan Mastani.

However these tracks are the least effective in this otherwise compelling brew which mixes her elusive concept with equally demanding personal concerns: Violence is a bruising beat-driven assertion where lyrics like “I'm begging for it baby . . . you're feeding off hurting me” and “I like it like that” are ambiguous at best.

She conflates her sexuality and “the world is a sad place, baby. Only brand new gods can save me” on the mesmerising New Gods. There's indifferent self-harm on You'll Miss When I'm Not Aroundand on My Name is Dark she pulls together an impending apocalypse (“we party when the sun goes low, imminent annihilation sounds so dope”) with ennui and a despairing need for belief: “The boys are such a bore, the girls are such a bore. I never trust the government and pray to God, for sure”.

Her fame and maturity have come at a cost.

The elevated, airy techno-pop of the seven minute IDORU at the end is a hopeful glimmer after this journey through universal and individual shadowlands.

Grimes here sounds as confused as anyone these days but that's what elevates this into her major statement, at times delivering with an appropriately gritty sonic punch.

It doesn't quite make her An Important Artist but it's certainly uneasy listening for, and from, those who feel they just weren't made for these times.

You can here the extended edition of Grimes' album at Spotify here


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