Leaner and older. I first saw Braids by accident at Pop Montreal. I’d gone to see Caribou drummer’s side product Pick a Piper, and found myself mesmerized by the young foursome that ripped apart the stage with its five-long song set, plastic animals strung like lights across their Korgs. I, like many in the room who were hearing Braids for the first time, was totally seduced by their frenetic energy, their psychedelic power, and their boldness.
Is it really four years later? Time flies. Still amazingly honest and willing to restart a song that doesn’t work, the trio of Braids look older than I remember. “Maybe I’m a bit of a sissy,” Raphaelle Standell-Preston says, “But can you turn down the fog machine? It’s completely artificial fog.” Maturity suits them. There seems to be greater certainty, increased confidence about their performance. The “new” Braids is said to be more electronic, but I just find things a little leaner, a little less meandering (not that I was complaining). Songs are shorter and seem to have slightly fewer layers to them, but perhaps that’s the difference between 3 and 4. They still capture the perfect tension between chaos and control. They deconstruct rhythms and vocals, looping and transforming them with ambient sounds. Things switch so quickly and so unexpectedly that it’s hard to keep up — and that’s half the fun. Somehow, they stay tight with Austin Tufts’ complicated beats, Standell-Preston’s heart breaking vocals, and Taylor Smith’s passionate percussive and bass additions. Though they seem to take every song with such seriousness, they break into huge smiles at the applause, as if it is still a surprise to hear it. They are not a pretentious band, no matter how much they are embraced for being arty.
The set came up far too short. To sum up, for the last four years, Braids always leave me hungry for more. At least I picked up Flourish // Perish and will probably spend the next few days bathing in it.
Openers Hundert Waters were reminiscent of Braids in their earlier incarnation, though perhaps less energetic. This foursome stood behind their synth stands and drum kit, all bedecked with a white webby net that cast maritime shadows on them as they played. Breakably sparrow-like, with a dreamy, elfin voice, Nicole Miglis brings intensity and focus to the introverted act. Her piano skills betray classical training. Other band members seem to drive in and ride her fantasy, picking up instruments and digital devices to make a lush forest of sound.