Miss Anthropocene is an oddly unsettling album not only stylistically, but also in its concept and its place in the world at large.
It’s the fifth album from Claire Boucher’s ‘Grimes’ project, and as such is more polished and consistent than her earlier work. It is in many ways a departure from this work, exploring a darker and more intense version of her dreamy electro-pop sound. This is fitting given the main theme of the album. Before its release, Boucher explained that the album surrounds the character of Miss Anthropocene, a God like personification of the existential threats to humanity who ‘relishes the end of the world’.
The context of the album’s production is also significant for our understanding of it. At the time of release, Boucher was pregnant with her first child with billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. In 2017 cultural theorist Mark Fisher died, and it is a shame that he didn’t live to see Boucher’s album, given that it embodies so many of his core concepts. Firstly, this album seems to demonstrate the concept of ‘capitalist realism’ which is the tendency of modern society to find it easier to imagine the end of the world than positive systematic social and political change. Boucher’s almost celebratory attitude towards existential threat, whether it be AI or climate change, on this album would not seem so eery five years ago.
Given that she is now effectively intimately tied to the class of techno billionaires most intimately responsible for, at least some, of these problems, lines like “imminent annihilation sounds so dope” have a certain threatening undertone. Secondly, the musical content of the album similarly displays Fisher’s thesis that modern culture is unable to produce anything genuinely new or innovative.
Despite a superficial veneer of high-tech futurism and sci-fi experimentation, this album draws mostly from pre-established forms and sounds, many of which are over two decades old. These include, synth-pop, trap music, Björk, and the fusion of east Asian culture and sci-fi that is typical of the 90s cyberpunk aesthetic. Musically however, the album is far from bad. Even though some songs go on for too long, the diversity of influences and sounds makes it conceptually compelling and sonically rich. Boucher is a talented producer whose music has never felt as carefully planned and controlled.
All in all however, despite its musical accomplishments Miss Anthropocene is a jarring project which serves to explore and exemplify many central issues in modern consumer culture.
Image: Grimes via Wikimedia Commons