For years now, the voice of Claire Boucher has evoked a feeling unparalleled by anything else - like a sense of artificial etherealism. The soft, almost ecclesiastic nature of these vocals lends her music the otherworldly vibe that has been associated with Grimes as an artist since the very beginning, and Miss Anthropocene is very much in-keeping with that legacy.
‘Miss Anthropocene’ is a self-described concept album about “the anthropomorphic Goddess of Climate Change: A psychedelic, space-dwelling demon/beauty-Queen who relishes the end of the world”. This so-called goddess is (apparently) “composed of Ivory and Oil”, which is either a sugary placebo or genius creativity, befitting of 'Miss Anthropocene' - “anthropocene” is the current geological period of humanity’s domination of planet Earth, and in this context, a pun on the word “misanthrope” - someone distrusting of mankind . The record feels slick and polished, yet natural and unnatural. Like Grimes’ previous music, it’s a scary, ambient, and muddlingly beautiful mess.
‘So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth’ introduces the album’s concept unsubtly; the track’s title is repeated over and over throughout its six minutes. Nature and technology are clearly the two themes battling for supremacy here. ‘Darkseid’ is layered over a hip-hop beat and a dark electronic atmosphere, with glittering sections of Mandarin from featured artist 潘PAN.
Of the previously-released singles, ‘Delete Forever’ is the most muted – feeling somewhat incongruous with its title. The track inspires thoughts of the robotic AI storylines Grimes normally concerns herself with, but actually has its foundations in country music and is built entirely with acoustic guitar and an intense bridge vocal.
'Violence’ is a pounding, thumping techno cut that just demands repeat listens. It’s impossible to get enough of this track; within the setting of Miss Anthropocene, the knife-edge juxtaposition between ‘Violence’ and ‘Delete Forever’ is perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the album’s construction.
Moving incredulously from techno to drum ‘n’ bass, ‘4Æ’ takes elements from Indian classical music and underground dance basslines, set under Grimes’ trademark magical vocals. This track feels like something that could’ve been on the Voyager Golden Record, jetted out into space - it’s a display of so many different reaches of music created by humanity. Perhaps that was Grimes’ intention, but it’s not a perhaps, it’s more like an obviously that was Grimes’ intention, with an album name like ‘Miss Anthropocene’, it’s clear that Grimes set out to make a record drawing on music from every corner of the world.
‘My Name is Dark’ takes us back to sounds from ‘Art Angels’, with overbearing heavy guitar scrapes and unnerving childlike vocals. Grimes sings in a muted tone: “I am an angel of death/and fuck the world/you stupid girl...that’s what the drugs are for.”
As ‘Miss Anthropocene’ comes to an end, we’re gradually led down the crescendo of the record. ‘4Æ’ feels like the centre of the album, the core of ‘Miss Anthropocene’’s Earth. It’s the track with the most obvious nod to the current anthropocene, and the final five tracks of the record are all somewhat reserved in their sound. Lyrically, they are just as alive and thoughtful as the beginning of the album, but sonically, they seem subdued. ‘Miss Anthropocene’ is a project that feels like it could belong to no artist other than Grimes. During her fifth album, we’re brought to the tip of an iceberg through the lens of her own making, invited on an adventure alongside the Goddess of Climate Change...and what an adventure it is.
This piece of work is a constant tug-of-war between humanity, nature, and technology, and our complex relationship with the place we call home.
Words: Erin Bashford
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