Grimes @ The Berkeley Suite, 7 May
Canadian experimental electro-pop darling Claire Boucher aka Grimes' set is a piecemeal, halting affair – problems with equipment and the loss of her setlist prove challenging obstacles for the young artiste, and frequent calls for the engineer to turn up her keys and vocals take their toll, frustration showing on her face. Neither these technical problems or the heat of the oversold venue can diminish the power of her majestic, contradictory pop anthems; equal parts polish and sheen, and defiant, wilful experimentalism.
What Boucher perhaps lacks in classic songwriting ability, she makes up for in spades with her strong sense of dynamics and innovative vocal performances. Her voice alternates between ethereal, FX-assisted flights of melody and strange, childlike growls, yelps and squeaks, all of these woven into a tapestry of beautiful, intricate electronic beats.
There are bands you could point to as influences – from Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack to Tori Amos. Others you could mention as peers, from Glass Candy to more esoteric acts like Butterclock. CRIM3S go deeper and darker; are more challenging. Rihanna has a bigger marketing budget. But few of them have the same masterful control of digital effects, performance style, or most importantly, production.
On tracks like Genesis and Be A Body, Grimes combines experimental electronica with staggeringly infectious pop in a way which is completely unique. She uses her voice as an instrument, bending templates for dreamy electro-pop and R&B into something dark, intoxicating and deliciously sweet. The gig ends prematurely due to the technical issues, but the crowd are hungry for more.