Knauss Boutanche Trollinger and Art Angels
Everyone loves a little surprise and delight - whether that comes from finding a Hamilton on the ground, getting an extra taco in your Taco Bell bag, job perks like industry tickets to a festival or of course finding new amazing wine and music to become obsessed with. It’s a thrill to have something awesome come into your life unexpectedly or to have first impressions morph into a much more complex and exciting reality. And that’s exactly what I get from Grimes' "Art Angels" and Knauss Boutanche Trollinger. That and achieving ultimate satisfaction from each, and a full on sensory orgy when enjoyed together.
Grimes is an adorable, petite, feminine woman who also happens to be a force to be reckoned with. She’s a total badass in every way. Let’s start with the fact that the first album she (Claire Elise Boucher) released as Grimes was a Dune concept album. Totally badass. More importantly, she’s wisely chosen to produce and engineer her own studio records as opposed to corporate music industry executives. She speaks out about the sexism of the industry. She’s an electronic artist who learned to play various instruments for her fourth album "Art Angels". And she is an incredible visual artist who created all the “Art Angels” artwork, including the cover art AND each individual track’s art.
Andi Knauss is a young experimental winemaker who runs the show at Weingut Knauss as of 2004 in Swabia, Germany. His wines are imported by Seleccion Messale, which works exclusively with modern, natural winemakers whose wines are pure terroir expressions and not the product of doctored cellar transformations. According to Seleccion Messale, “in less than 10 years, [Andi Knauss] has developed one of the most important and exciting estates we know of.”
Andi’s natural winemaking philosophy is always at the forefront of his choices as a vintner, even in a market where that could be a gamble. Luckily, the German people (and many others) have embraced his methods like wines with no sulfur added and sparkling wines with no dosage.
Before even scratching the surface, it's apparent that both Grimes’ "Art Angels" and the bottle of Knauss Trollinger share a whimsical and surreal aesthetic vibe. Primary colors and a Japanese-inspired alien are featured on the cover of “Art Angels” and a turquoise and pink label represents the Trollinger with a grasshopper wearing a Hunter S. Thompson style Hawaiian shirt and safari hat.
Trollinger is a varietal mainly grown in Germany and is something of a little known darling . When pouring a glass of this beautiful juice, the color is see-through magenta with a bouquet and flavors of raspberry, a trace of slate mineral, subtle florals, lots of acidity and something savory like salad dressing. That last note strengthens with more sniffs and sips as the wine opens up, almost like a Caprese salad with fresh tomato and basil. Adding to its allure, it's unclear if this is a really light red wine or a dark rosé. This bottle you may not think to chill, but you absolutely should. At first, this seems like a light, fun, uncomplicated wine - but it's so original and loaded with personality.
Like the Trollinger, Grimes is fun, fresh, modern, different and hard to categorize. The first four songs on "Art Angels" and pretty much the whole album are a romp through wildly different styles and sentiments. The opening track “Laughing but not being normal” is a lovely orchestral composition that intros a high pitched, Bjork-style vocal poem. Next, “California” is a pretty, melodic, forlorn-sounding song that would be fitting for sun-drenched West Coast activities, and is directed at the music industry’s criticism of her, professing “when you get bored of me I’ll be back on the shelf.”
“SCREAM” is a track featuring Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes who sings in Mandarin while Grimes unleashes literal screams because her and her friends are beasts. It sounds formidable, tough as hell and makes me want to hit the dance floor. This track speaks to the experimental spirit of Knauss making weird wine in a traditional market.
Next, we have the first banger of the album. “Flesh Without Blood” is so fun. This delicious song starts out with vocals like what I imagine Barbie would sound like if she could talk, then get deeper and richer leading up to the chorus and escalate with a piercing “now you’ll never know!” sung at the start of the chorus then back down again like a sonic rollercoaster. Despite some resentful lyrics towards the subject of the song, it’s masked by pop magic that’s amazing fun.
In my opinion, the ultimate banger and perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time is “Kill v. Maim”. The chorus is such a perfect snarky feminist anthem. The sly, sarcastic, cheerleader-mimicking spelling out of the word BEHAVE mocks those who perceive women as subordinate, sheepish and reticent then corrects the course with what we really are: “Italiana mobster Looking so precious”:
Looking so precious
You gave up being good when you declared a state of war
I don't behave, I don't behave, oh eh
I don't behave, I don't behave, oh eh
“Venus Fly” is another stand-out track that presents Grimes and the incomparable Janelle Monae featured on the song as predators of the patriarchy. Monae’s chant-like lyrics demand why a man dares even look at her, testing his interest if she changed her physical appearance to be less conventionally attractive or feminine: “What if I pulled my teeth? Cut my hair underneath my chin/Wrap my curls all around the world/Throw my pearls all across the floor”.
“Art Angels” ends with “Butterfly”, a synth-laden song about an outside force trying to threaten a beautiful, delicate creature’s existence. Grimes warns: “If you're looking for a dream girl/I'll never be your dream girl/Living in the real world/Looking for a dream girl.” While Grimes is in fact a dream girl without trying to be, that’s not what she’s here for.
What we have here with this indulgent combo are two artists who know who they are if maybe not everyone else knows how to label them, proceed accordingly and whose creations keep you guessing and seduce you all at once.