Braids – Native Speaker (2011 LP)
The new Braids LP Native Speaker was released with a lot of preconceived notions and expectations, but not so much hype and excitement. It has been dubbed as a ‘mini album’, and with only 7 tracks on it I guess a ‘mini album’ is a fitting title – but the album does go for 40 minutes… It is (sort of) their first release since changing their name from Neighborhood Council to Braids – which in my opinion was a good move…
Even conducting just a little research on this album over the inter-schnitzel led me down corridors of huge comparisons to Animal Collective. It’s quite obvious to see the influence Animal Collective has on Native Speaker, especially with some of the vocal techniques used and the odd hook here and there. I would even compare the vocals to that of the two fabulous young ladies in Sydney’s very own Kyu; there are a lot of the same vocal principles going on.
I like a lot of things about this LP, Braids really chase after a lot of different sounds that develop and bounce off one another which mesh into this intoxicating bubbling cauldron of sound. Saying this, I found that some tracks provided a little too much sound simultaneously for me to really pin down what was happening within the music – but Braids are renowned for this sort of thing; it’s their ‘identifier’.
There is some incredible usage of synthesized bowed guitars here that completely blew me away. The first track on the album “Lemonade” is a great example. Towards the end of the track, a collection of different instruments come together playing different chirpy melodies, and the undertone in the track at this point are these beautiful synthed, bowed guitars. Braids have really gone to the ninth degree to create amazing sounds on this LP.
One criticism I’m going to make about this LP is that I think the production could have been a little better. At times the music can be quite faint, and then in the next moment it’s booming; at other times, the instruments over power the vocals a little too much as well. Braids may have chosen for it to play out this way – but even so, it’s very annoying.
My favourite track on the album is track three, “Glass Deers”. It is quite placid and the sound in it extends over a vast complexity, yet it remains quite simple sounding. The vocals are very gentle and cute whilst the drums and keyboards are quite steady and spicy. There are a lot of layers, so I could sit and listen to this song over and over again and each time I would be able to pick out new aspects of it I hadn’t picked up on previously.
One common technique Braids have applied to the entire LP is echo – not reverb. With reverb the sounds still remain very much in control of themselves, but echo provides a more conversational and frivolous sound; it’s a little more ‘throw-it-out-there-and-see-what-comes-back’ sort of thing.
Overall, I was very impressed with Native Speaker. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it didn’t disappoint. If you’re looking for something with a bit of bite for a mature pallet, definitely give Braids a listen.
Review Score: 8/10