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Native Speaker




Kanine Records

Release Date:


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Braids make a fascinating, swirling music. It is very contemporary, in that i hear similar things in Animal Collective and Sun Airway, but Braids have one unique advantage: the powerful voice of Raphaelle Standell-Preston. She has a mid-pitched female voice, but has an incredible amount of control, able to go from a sparse whisper to a loud howl in a split second.

The record starts with Lemonade a swirling mess of keyboardishness as Standell-Preston sings and backing vocalist Katie Lee adds nice textures behind here. The song is beautiful and chaotic, seemingly growing organically as you listen. Standell-Preston is layered out front on Plath Heart, where her clear voice combines with synth strings and some lovely scattered drumming.

Glass Deers starts light and delicate, ethereal aahing voices and a tinkling of guitars, as slowly Standell-Preston's voice comes in lightly. This song grows and transforms, until in the middle bassist Taylor Smith is suddenly channeling some proggish heavy riffing like something from the first Heavy Metal movie, while Standell-Preston growls angrily for just a moment, then suddenly the song is back to dreamy lightness. The heavy angry part is just a few seconds but it comes completely out of nowhere, catching the listener off-guard. And yet, it doesn't seem out of place at all, but instead is a natural part of the song.

Native Speaker ebbs and flows, driven by a repetitive keyboard riff almost like the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. The band meander over this riff, with layers of drums and effected guitars and bass and voices all buried under echo and reverb, the various sounds positively bouncing off one another. It's almost disorienting, and is their whole aesthetic effect taken to its logical conclusion. It also never really jells and ends up seeming more like an interesting experiment than an interesting song. Still, it's kind of neat.

A throbbing rave beat, muffled like you are hearing it from a distance, kicks off Lammicken. Voices get layered over it, singing wordlessly, then Standell-Preston comes in. The beat drives this song along, until it eventually gets a little noisy with Standell-Preston really wailing away. If the previous song is the logical conclusion of Braids experiments in looping and echo, then Lammicken is where they perfect this sound. My favorite on the album.

Same Mum kicks off with some tinkling guitars, like something Maps and Atlases would do. Percussion drives this along, and the song is a little less droney than some of the other tunes. The echo on Austin Tufts' drumming as well as the keyboards here remind me of something Tortoise would do. And finally we wrap things up with the short (for Braids) four-minute minimal drone piece Little Hand, just echoing sounds fading out the album under a steady krautrock beat.

There is a lot going on here, and even though there are only seven songs, the album clocks in at close to 45 minutes. So, yes, these are long songs, but given what the band is doing, the length seems a natural result of their looping, droning songs. These songs need to be long.

Now, supposedly Braids are a four-piece act from Calgary, Alberta who released a well-received EP while in high school, and Native Speaker is the album they have released after going through college. There is an awful lot of talent here from people so young, so look for more from this band. From what i hear now, i am very curious as to what they will develop into as their career progresses.

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