Braids, The Lexington, London
Monday 06 June 2011
Finding a point of reference for Braids is difficult – there are tones of the XX and a feel of the Twilight soundtrack in their foresty howling, but the way it's put together is entirely original.
Layer upon layer of carefully created sound is constructed from playful drums, soft keyboards and Raphaelle Standell-Preston's ethereal voice. She reaches eye-watering notes before washing the melody away, delicate and controlled like an ebbing tide.
The Lexington is a small and charismatic space, but Braids' sound is engulfing enough to fill a room much larger and the four musicians, with their impressive variety of instruments, command attention. There is definitely a cinematic tone to their unusual creations. Twenty minutes go by before the band stop to take a breath as each track folds into the next. You feel as if you're sitting in the album itself, wrapped in its dreamy, electric tones.
The only pitfall of such a set-up is that it's hard to grab on to a rounded understanding of their sound when there's no track definition. It has a tendency to slip past you when there are no ends and no beginnings. Nevertheless, the attentive crowd sway softly without taking their eyes off the Montreal band, who in turn look so engrossed in their performance it's as if they don't notice the listening crowd.
Shiver-inducing vocals from both Katie Lee and Standell-Preston and edgy interjections from the guitarist Taylor Smith and the drummer Austin Tufts give a choir-like shade to the second half of the set. Just when you've been lulled they throw in an electric bassline, shaking up the haunting undertones and keeping the room's attention throughout the hour-long set.
The vocals often hold no lyrics, the attention focused on the sound rather than the words. There's a whispered suggestion that there are hidden dirty lyrics beneath and indeed there is something extremely sensual about Braids. Any naughty hidden messages are immediately forgiven, though, when Standell-Preston speaks to the crowd, her soft and innocent Canadian accent floating over the audience as she gives a quiet smile.
They're a captivating crew who leave you thirsting for more – the echo of the last track fading into the depth of the forest they've created, if only for a night.
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