Visions, the third solo album by the Montreal musician Claire Boucher, who records as Grimes, starts out at full speed: Its opening track, Infinite Love Without Fulfillment, gallops hard, a collision of art-rock and electro-pop, all in service of Boucher’s blithe coos.
Grimes has been releasing music for only two years but has already established a signature approach. It’s insular and unnerving, a blend of the naive and the erotic. At times, though, it’s been almost irredeemably precious, largely because Boucher’s tendency toward vocal experimentation wasn’t leavened by any thoroughgoing embrace of melodic structure.
Visions irons out that kink admirably: It’s easily Boucher’s best work, and one of the most impressive albums of the year so far. Boucher is jubilant here, her multitracked vocals (which can recall Julianna Barwick) both an effective sonic strategy and also an emotional one. She has a lovely coo to her voice, especially on Be a Body. And she flaunts a range of influences, as on Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U), which seemingly owes debts to both Bollywood playback singers and Siouxsie Sioux.
Previously Boucher has been lost in abstractions; on this album she uses many of the same touchstones, but more directly. Circumambient is full of unlikely competing sounds — crackling white noise, tribal drums, airplane roars — that resolve themselves into coherent electro-soul. The bells on Vowels = Space and Time echo the freestyle music of the 1980s. And just maybe there’s a nod to Toni Basil on “Genesis.”
— JON CARAMANICA
Every New Orleans band has to reckon with Mardi Gras, which took place Tuesday. Galactic, formed in New Orleans in 1994, takes a wide-angle view on Carnivale Electricos, writing and transforming Carnival songs not only from New Orleans and Cajun country, but also from another Carnival epicenter: Brazil.
Onstage, Galactic is a first-rate funk band. In the studio it has become a perpetually recombinant group of musicians, producers and conceptualizers, hooking up with collaborators from New Orleans and far beyond. The guest list on Carnivale Electricos extends from New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro, in tracks that morph across time, space and cultures. Carnivale Electricos is brimming with ideas; it’s also one raw, rowdy party album.
Galactic doesn’t enforce any trademark sound. While New Orleans funk is laced through the album, it’s freely collaged with all sorts of other things. So Ha Di Ka, featuring Big Chief Juan Pardo and his Mardi Gras Indian tribe, Golden Comanche, isn’t just one more Indian chant backed by a band; it’s got fat-bottomed electronics, a deranged psychedelic guitar and explosive samples grapping with Galactic’s keyboard funk.
Voyage Ton Flag, alluding to an old Creole Carnival song from bayou country, crosscuts between a distorted guitar groove, an electronically stuttered Creole vocal (from Steve Riley) and bits of Clifton Chenier’s zydeco accordion. A remake of the 1960 Mardi Gras standard, Carnival Time — heartily sung by its songwriter and original performer, Al Johnson — throws together brass-band horns, Latin percussion and a determinedly funky clavinet.
Galactic is a more straightforward backup band for the hard-headed, humorous rappers Mystikal and Mannie Fresh in Move Fast, and for Cyril and Ivan Neville in Out in the Street. It meshes some wah-wah guitar with the hefty brass of the KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band in Karate, and leans toward hard-bop in the instrumental Attack.