Braids – Native Speaker (Kanine, 2011)

You may have heard a lot about Braids’ debut album already. A band to watch? Yes. A spectacular and original debut? Yep. Another Animal Collective? Not entirely. One of the most common tags attached to this new release is that they are just mimicking Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and the gang. Sure, you can hear AC’s influence, but this band are something a bit different, stringing out their 7 songs to 45 minutes, keeping the record pulsing with minimalistic beats, and an outstandingly dynamic female voice (even attaining Bjorkian reaches). They are patient; sometimes the songs take a while to grab you, which may alienate some people – but once it happens, it’s so gradual that you’ll wonder when it actually did get you. ‘Lemonade’, the opening track and leading single, sets the tone for the album; a progressive, hypnotic band, that make sure each of their drawn out tracks is layered, lovingly textured, creating a sort of soundscape yet with minimalism. It’s the vocals that go from whispering to bellowing, the reverb-coated lyrics, and the skilful and pulsating cohesiveness of the band; the Cocteau Twins meets Animal Collective (circa Feels), with a rainy twist. Another standout track, ‘Plath Heart’ is hard not to love, whizzing along as its own pace, with an irresistible voice, an assortment of instruments to match, and again making something great out of very little. Singing about pushing out babies has never been so amazing.

 

Nevertheless, there are the songs you don’t notice as strongly, drifting along, giving you a breather. And as a first release, the production isn’t always on the beat – for example, the drums could have been more pounding, punchier. But, you’ll forget all that with ‘Glass Deer’, their best song, epitomizing Braids: mesmerizing, elegant, gradual, just brilliant (you’ll be humming “oh I’m fucked-up-de-cup-de-cup-de-cup” for a long while). With the title track, what at first seems distant becomes mesmerizing – the empowered, yet vulnerable voice dominating the drifting sounds paints its blunt picture of sexuality and sensuality so well.

 

They have already been noticed as an upcoming force, currently touring the US with fellow experimentalists Baths, and granted, it’s not a masterpiece, but as debut record, its what it needs to be; not bland, confident, and something that you can’t get enough of.  It is a pop-laced experimental debut, and although the drawn out tracks, and the eccentric arrangements might put people off, Braids will find a home. So, with a new year, there are always worries about the new music; it’s in good hands with Braids. And with AC out until May at least, Braids can give you their own take on original, bellowing and minimalistic music, and hopefully remain alongside the Collective and Gang Gang Dance, providing their own blend of distinctive music.

Oliver Smith

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