Native Speaker – Braids

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The latest band to canonize Animal Collective, Montreal’s Braids focus more on soundscaping than popcraft, but pull off startling moments of both. Their gossamer suites consistently threaten to arpeggiate away into thin air, but are kept just this side of the corporeal by Raphaelle Standelle-Preston’s fidgety songs about fucking.

Opener “Lemonade” serves as an effective stand-in for all the tracks on Native Speaker: a watery trickle; a ship-in-the-harbor bass synth; two interweaving blissando guitar figures; spare, dislocated yet propulsive drums; and finally, Standell-Preston’s sometimes chirpy, sometimes soaring voice. Parts weave in and out with little fanfare, rarely returning to any kind of refrain, and before you know it you’re six minutes deep. And with few exceptions (notably the storm’s-a-comin’ Fever Ray dream “Lammicken”), they work that formula like it’s all they know.

That Braids spent a year working on the material for the self-produced Native Speaker is evident in every micromanaged percolation, but does refining one template preclude stretching out? Instead they prove the same point eight times, and if we can make it to the end, we’d like to have seen what else they know. Native Speaker is a collection of perfectly arranged, cascading, textural, neo-tribal tone poems, but we still get the feeling we should expect more from this band, and we’ll await it eagerly.