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"Native Speaker"

Braids – Native Speaker
02 February 2011, 13:00 Written by Ro Cemm

In an age where albums are often recorded in a matter of days or weeks, then promptly uploaded and released into the digital wilds just as quickly, it is refreshing to see a band give themselves the time to develop and craft their releases. TLOBF’s first introduction to Braids came via the track ‘Lemonade’, which featured on the first of our Oh! Canada compilations back in June of 2009, peaking the interest of many with it’s insistent looping motif and multitude of instrumental layers all building and exploding around Raphelle Standell-Preston’s near mantra-like delivery of the songs key hook.

It is a slightly reworked version of ‘Lemonade’ that kicks off the band’s debut album Native Speaker, and the track continues to draw in the listener, the new version a perfect example of the band taking the time to hone their creations. The ideas explored within Lemonade are extrapolated elsewhere in the album, with certain sections and passages echoing what has gone before, and expanding on it, looping ideas back on the listener, much as the band do within the individual songs themselves.

The epic ‘Glass Deer’ begins quietly, looped backwards guitars and passages propping each other up and introducing drones before giving way to a gentle lullaby like guitar and cooing multi-part vocals. So far so heavenly. As she does frequently throughout the record, Standell-Preston uses her voice as a percussive instrument here, repeating the phrase “all fucked-up-de-c-up,de c-up, de c-up” as the rhythm sections minimal drumming, suitably low in the mix, propels the band forward. Although all of Braids four members provide vocals, much of Native Speaker is built around Standell-Preston’s vocal delivery. From gentle coo, to spirited yelp, hers is the integral instrument in all of the bands intricately layered compositions.

While there is a feeling of gentle euphoria at work throughout Native Speaker, the imposing bass thumps of ‘Lammicken’ crackle with electricity as Standell-Preston intones the sinister and slightly disturbing mantra “I can’t stop it”. Set against this dark episode, ‘Same Mum’ positively explodes into life, its delicately swinging guitar lines repeating sing-song passages at each other, chiming and twinkling around the echoing vocals enthusiastically.

Native Speaker is a captivating record whose multi-layered approach seems to reveal more with each listen, a testament to being allowed the time to craft a record.


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