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Braids - The natives are getting restless
on 5 February 2011
A Braid is a complex structure or pattern formed by intertwining three or more strands of flexible material. In the case of this new Canadian band from Calgary the formation can be detected in a mix of dreamy atmospheric shozgaze pop which brings together some of the preoccupations of Beach House with more out and out rock of their country contemporaries Broken Social Scene and with a hint of Bjork in her Sugarcubes guise. As such "Native Speaker" is a very impressive debut album, which shows promise to spare and a real willingness to take chances. The music blogs have been foaming at the mouth at the prospect of Braids debut LP and it is pleasing to report a fine new discovery.
One of the prime reasons for this is lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston's ethereal voice that performs all sort of complex gymnastics and the bands underpinning instrumentation based on bubbling euphoric synthesized backgrounds, which often break into huge waves of sound and noise, Ms Preston sweetness also disguises a rather dirty mouth. She starts the long but very commercial opener and album highlight "Lemonade" with the impertinent question "Have you f*****d all the stray kids yet"? This song verges on electronic perfection and is key references point. Other songs which standout include the dark and primal "Glass Deers" a nearly eight minute building wail of all kinds of synth loops and gentle vocal injects which grow into a force of nature and is instilled with a confidence that the Animal Collective would admire. "Lammickan" has some of that quality that makes Fever Ray so special and grows from a gradual chant to a synth wall of sound. "Same mum" alternatively could be played in a disco and ticks over at a sparkling pace reviving warm memories of the great Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. As does "Plath Heart" which alternatively is more Germanic in focus and shows that in addition the band have done their research on Can and DAF. The title track is jam packed with echo, reverb and atmospherics although at nearly nine minutes some editing might not have gone amiss.
For a bunch of 21 year old grad students Native Speaker screams wisdom beyond their years. Native Speaker is not perfect but it's a great first outing. The album has an engrossing/ experimental quality devoid of any ambitions to secure chart success and with the emphasis on the production of glacial music destined to engage your grey matter. Seek it out.