, March 22nd, 2011 13:40
Depending on who's bending your ear about the state of modern music there's a school of thought doing the rounds that pop in all its forms has run its course: 50-odd years and that's your lot, matey. You'll also be told that music has nothing original to offer and all that's available are the refried moments from a half century of influence that at no point offer even the merest hint of the excitement of what came happened the first time round.
Yeah, yeah… and so much for that. While Grimes – 22-year-old Canadian Claire Boucher – may not win any awards for her influences, the end result is that of beguiling beauty coloured by ethereal brush strokes and an ever-present air of mystery. It'll also give the arbiters of genre naming with way too much time on their hands a few sleepless nights as they aimlessly argue as to whether this fits into the witch/chill/whatever pigeonhole.
What does matter is that when Grimes is on the money, Halfaxa has the ability to transport the listener from the realm of the mundane into an environment that positively aches with a rich aesthetic. Boucher's celestial voice, more often than not an instrument in its own right, harmonises with itself as around her bass throbs, low-end rumbles and infectious beats coalesce with dreamy keyboard washes and sweeps.
As evidenced by 'Weregild' and 'Sagrad', Boucher aims just as much for the feet as much as the head and the effect is not unlike encountering Fever Ray for the first time. There's some startling juxtaposition at work here and the glacial wonder of 'Devon' delights in music that proves to be as thoughtful as it is instinctive.
There is of course a caveat and what brings Halfaxa back down to earth rather than remaining in an ethereal orbit is a running time that could have done with some judicious pruning. The inconsequential 'Favriel' and 'Hallways' outstay their welcome and the real climax of the set should have been realised with the ambient yet urgent pulses of 'My Sister Says The Saddest Sings'. Yet this is a minor gripe, and Halfaxa announces the arrival of a talent that, with the right guidance and nurturing, should thrive.