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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Live Review: Talons at Barfly, October 18th 2010

After having been to the Electric Ballroom and Cargo for the first times in the past two weeks, I have come to realize that the smaller the venue, the more intimate it is, and the personal the relationship between the performing band and the audience becomes. It develops into a reciprocal relationship, a unity enjoyed and felt by both band and audience, as they become joint in the effort to have a good time. When the reverberation off the amps hit the crowd’s ears, you’ll give the band something back: there is banter, there is contact, there is groundedness, intimacy and appreciation.

I realized this to a full extent the evening I first went to the Camden Barfly, with Talons performing their first headline tour, with the brilliant support line-up of Run, Walk!, Hold Your Horse Is, and Brontide. After being offered cocaine on the way to the Camden Barfly, I was slightly skeptical about the reception I would receive there. However, it was brilliant. With little to no sound checks beforehand, one got the idea that this was raw music; this was pure emotion and purpose, dished out by the bands and served to the crowd. First getting there, with only around 20 people, we waited for Run, Walk! to grace the stage. These two young men, who were in the crowd mingling with the audience, got up on stage, strapped on their basses and got their drum sticks, and unleashed a flurry of unrepentant energy, noise, feelings and theatrics. They were amazing. With broken drum pedals, flinging drumsticks, jumps from speakers onto the crowd floor, and swings and screams reigning over the Barfly, especially during These Trees Are Raw, this band was very good live. This duo, with the bassist swinging around the crowd and the drummer pounding the fibers from the snare, they were very loud, very lively, very intense. A great start to the evening, and a great introduction to Barfly. The lead singer at one point warned “if you stand too long on this floor, you’ll stick to it”, but there was never a chance of that, with energy exuded from the band keeping the crowd’s feet moving.

Up next was Hold Your Horse Is, a trio with standard set up of bass, drums, and guitars. To me, they aren’t really my cup of tea, but I admit, they are melodic, they are charismatic and they do have a commanding stage presence, an amazing drummer, soulful vocals, and good banter. But, in a concert surrounded by raw, fresh, innovative bands, they seemed too standard and too already-heard, already-done. The third band of the night, and the last supporting act was Brontide, a name I had only faintly heard before but one I would come to love. Moments before they hit the stage, the Run, Walk!, drummer, standing beside me, told us “this next band is brilliant, very loud though” – we were warned. And as predicted, they gave a thumping performance; technical and intricate guitar, drum and bass work, building loops and finger-tapping verses. This instrumental hardcore band knew how to build a song, to work its emotions, to get people to move – each song gained momentum, building and building, erupting in drum interludes and elaborate guitar parts. They were the best so far, and when the guitarist said “We are finally recording our album next week, after two years”, you can be sure that when it is released, I’ll be there to buy it. Fantastic. During the final song, when the drummer suffered a leg sprain, he continued to play, battering his snare and cymbals, despite his leg lying across the bass drum. They were amazing and blew me away.

After Brontide left, everyone knew what was coming, the headliners – Talons. The fourth and final band were amazing before they even played. With two violinists – yes that’s right, not one but two – the anticipation grew; no one would leave here bored or unentertained. With a technical guitar problem that led to the set being 10 minutes late, and thus a shorter performance, as they had an 11-hour roundtrip back to Leeds, time was of the essence as the guitarist remarked. Nevertheless, as no-one doubted, they still a managed to one-up every band, putting on an amazing performance of new invigorated sounds, violin solos during a hardcore instrumental song, intense guitar work, and an octopus of a drummer. One has to point out the performances of Anthropods and Commiserations Buff Orpington, performing them as with casting a spell of attention and awe. Showing off some songs from their upcoming album ‘Hollow Realm’, the band invited the crowd to the album launch on November 13th. Finishing with a new song – “Peter Pan” – amid thumping drums, leading guitars, and subtle yet integral violins, they left the stage with thanks and appreciation. It was an amazing night, and as my damaged ears showed, there were brilliant performances, only bettered by the groundedness of the bands, the intimacy of the setting, and the crowd’s responses – a great introduction to the Barfly and to these several excellent bands.

Oli Smith