A musical view of the apocalypse
Musically this record takes a much darker tack overall than Grimes’ previous records. It seems to take the darker musical tones and themes from Art Angels and Visions and doubles down. Even when tracks feel lighter they are underpinned with insidious undertones that imbue unease and a lack of safety.
The opening track is a beautiful 6-minute symphony filled with reverb vocals gliding through an epic soundscape. The back line almost providing an apocalyptic darkness to the light optimism of the top line and vocals. It is a lush experience and provides a somewhat false sense of security relative to the proclivities of the album overall. These become more evident on the second track Darkseid as the tone darkens considerably and the beauty is removed in favour of a more industrial feel as Grimes manically raps and shouts over woozy bass and echoey drums. The duality of these tracks runs throughout the record.
4ÆM is the pinnacle of the albums themes and senses. It is the ultimate End of the World Rave anthem with a Middle Eastern flavour in its moments of relative calm which give way to an early hours drum and bass and synth combination overlaid with mania tinged vocals that only lets up momentarily throughout. The whole track is a relentless tour de force that is going to drag you kicking and screaming along for the ride as you hope not to lose your breath or your sanity in the process.
The only light reprieve is the excellent, appreciated but somewhat out of place Delete Forever. Essentially an acoustic guitar pop track but lyrically offering the perspective from which the rest of the record probably comes.
Lying so awake, things I can’t escapeDelete Forever – Grimes
Lately, I just turn ’em into demons
Violence and New Gods bookend the rave of 4ÆM perfectly. Violence is a driving warm up and precursor but stands well on its own feet deploying house music tropes with ingenuity, New Gods meanwhile feels more like a heartbroken and questioning survey of the destruction left in the wake of the rave.
As soon as New Gods provides that moment of calm, the thick syrup from which it comes gains more drums and attitude for one of the leading singles, My Name Is Dark, to emerge. Speaking of singles, it is a sin that We Appreciate Power did not find an organic home on the record and was relegated to a bonus track. Meanwhile You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around has single potential, especially with that beepy synth riff that interjects on top and the more traditional vocal stylings and made-for-charts theme. Oh and its less than 3 minutes! Made for radio.
Before The Fever offers more of the thematic same but with no hook or grip to hold onto. Even gliding with it seems less fruitful and rewarding than earlier tracks like the opener and New Gods. Meanwhile the 7-minute IDORU seems to offer very little to either warrant its length or relistening to it other than to finish the album. There are worthwhile ideas within the track but are lost in the indulgence.
It seems odd that an artist could provide such a timely record for right now. There is a sense of foreboding in the world as a microbe makes an entire species fearful for its future. The end of times is a theme on many minds and this album seems to provide a decent soundtrack for that.
Highlights: 4ÆM, Delete Forever, Violence, So Heavy I Fell To The Earth