(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Native Speaker (2011) , 7/10

Montreal-based prog-rock quartet Braids, fronted by guitarist Raphaelle Standell-Preston and vocalist and keyboardist Katie Lee, debuted with Native Speaker (Flemish Eye, 2011), an exercise in minimalist repetition applied to brainy song-writing. Propelled by an intricate minimalist pattern, Lemonade displays their best quality: the ability to secrete songs that are ethereal but at the same time very earthly. Lee spends most of the song daydreaming, but then suddenly starts shouting like a little girl and her echo drowns in a whirlwind of sound effects. Plath Heart is typical of their dense, intricate and shifting madrigals that are hard to pin down. Glass Deers opens with pure minimalist repetition that slowly disappears and is replaced by flickering, wavering, tinkling tones mixed with processed vocals while Lee intones her girlish invocation and paradisiac female vocals float around her. The quiet turmoil achieves an almost psychedelic grandeur.
From the beginning the drum-less Native Speaker displays the impalpable quality of an Enya lullaby. The sparse accompaniment projects a contemplative atmosphere, but the vocal effects augment the feeling of fragility and insanity.
Lammicken, on the other hand, boasts a slow-motion muffled disco beat and quasi-house crooning from Lee, although it sounds like something else altogether.
The tropical ditty Same Mum indulges in a simple counterpoint of stuttering synthesizers and girlish vocals before imploding into a completely different song: a drum-less cosmic hymn.
The melodies are not catchy at all, whether that is a cause (the instrumental underpinning needs to provide the appeal that is lacking from the melodies) or an effect (the sophisticated constructs restrain the vocals). If the premise sounds akin to Cocteau Twins' dream-pop, the outcome is much more difficult to grasp, the musical equivalent of a calculus theorem.

Previously, Raphaelle Standell-Preston fronted Blue Hawaii whose debut EP Blooming Summer (2010) contained the chillwave song Lilac; and later they will release Untogether (Arbutus, 2013) and Tenderness (2017).

The Braids released Flourish/ Perish (Arbutus, 2013) and Deep In The Iris (2015).

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(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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