While the Web was all abuzz last month about her signing to famed indie label 4AD, Claire Boucher was holed up in her parents' basement in Vancouver.
Better known as Grimes, the 23-year-old emerging electro-pop/multimedia artist had found herself back in a place she sought to escape in 2006 when she left Vancouver for Montreal, pre-paring for a lengthy tour that kicks off tonight at the Fortune Sound Club.
"I was really unpopular in high school," Boucher said. "So I wanted to have a different life. I'm appreciating Vancouver a lot more now. It's been good to go away and come back."
While she half-joked about missing the mountains and forgetting how clean the air is here, hinting that maybe, perhaps, she would permanently move back some day, the graduate from Lord Byng Secondary is looking straight ahead.
Her third album Visions, which will be released Tuesday, is poised to make Grimes one of this year's biggest breakout artists.
The album is a dirty, gleeful mishmash of loopy electronica splashed with touches of '80s goth, punk, new wave and Asian sonic iconography that is as much a headphone-worthy experience as it is a dance floor-ready stomper.
Visions is jaw-dropping. Imagine an alternate soundtrack to Blade Runner mixing Enya, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Lykke Li, delivered by a one-girl band with a surreal siren-like vocal, a subtle hint of a lisp and an uncanny ability to build big, borderline psychedelic pop-driven hooks on her array of synths, keys and drum machines.
But how did Boucher, who admits to loving Marilyn Manson as much as The Weeknd, end up where she is now? What happened to the girl who was studying arts and science with a focus on neurobiology and philosophy at McGill University?
Boucher said her musical awakening happened just a couple of years ago, when she met friends who shared a similar interest in under-ground music and arts, which led her to move further and further away north of McGill and into Montreal's Parc-Ex neighbourhood, home to some of the city's most creative musical minds.
"Someone showed me how to use GarageBand and I just started trying stuff out," Boucher said.
"Then my friends started [small indie label] Arbutus Records and asked me if I would be on it even though I had no music at all. All our friends were on the label. But then everyone started making some decent music, so it turned out pretty well."
By late 2010, Boucher had dropped out of McGill, had two albums under her belt (the cassette-made Geidi Primes and the experimental "witch house" effort Halfaxa) and was a fixture of Montreal's loft scene.
In early 2011, she borrowed her father's van and drove with a few friends and her manager to South By Southwest in Austin, Tex.
"I quit my job right before that and dropped out of school in December [of 2010]. I decided I might as well take a risk. It was a crazy journey sleeping on random people's floors. And then I played 11 shows in three days. It was fun. My manager would carry my key-board and I would carry everything else and we would sprint from venue to venue."
The blogosphere went berserk. Another album, Darkbloom, a split EP with friend and producer D'Eon, and the video for catchy single Vanessa cemented the hype.
At the CMJ festival in New York City, 4AD, the label once home to the Pixies, Cocteau Twins and other indie luminaries of the mid-'80s, came calling.
"No one told me until after the fact that they had come to the show because my manager didn't want me to freak out," Boucher said. "I get really nervous. They just seemed to really like [what they had heard from Visions]."
The album's first two singles, Genesis and Oblivion, are earworms of the most viral nature, stuff that pop radio should really play (but likely will not).
Circumambient has the kind of oomph and crackle that would drive a club insane, complete with Mariah Carey-esque, high-pitched squeals.
There is even a nod to Prince on Colour of Moonlight, which blatantly lifts the beat from When Doves Cry.
"Oh yes, that's my favourite beat of all time," Boucher said. "I love Prince. I actually took the beat again and made another song recently."
But while Visions is laced with a futuristic edge, a song like Be A Body is an obvious backlash against modern technology with a hip-hop feel that would make for a great Kanye West collab.
"I don't have a phone," Boucher said. "Everyone I know is always on their f---ing phone on the Internet all the time. I just wanted to write a song about being alive in the real world - 'be a body.'"
With Visions, Boucher finds her-self at the crossroads of art and pop. Whether people will see her as just a quirky pop singer or as a full-fledged producer who creates her own beats all depends on the way they absorb her image.
"It'll either go away or it will get worse," she said. "I feel the way the package is presented at first glance, if you're watching a video or something, you would just think there is a producer behind it. It's just stereotypes: 'If someone's dancing in a music video, they probably didn't make the music,' or something.
"The thing that interests me the most about making art is that I want to have a place in the dialogue. I want to be part of something that is remembered. I really wanted to shoot big because I really wanted people to hear this record."
Blog: vancouversun.com/awesomesound twitter.com/FMarchandVS
AT A GLANCE
With Born Gold
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: Fortune Sound Club, 147 E. Pender
Tickets: $13 in advance at Zulu, Red Cat, Highlife and northerntickets.com