Braids is an ethereal Montreal-based trio that plays “experimental pop,” mixing whirring electronics with acoustic instruments, and powered by singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s breathtaking vocals. She frequently sounds like a more vulnerable Björk, her voice swelling from delicate to epic with impressive ease. The group first caught my attention with the song “Miniskirt,” from their last album Deep In The Iris, and now they have a new EP titled Companions, available May 20th on the Arbutus label/collective.
Despite its devastating lyrics about sexual abuse, “Miniskirt” is surprisingly empowering, especially once it reaches its exhilarating ending. The title track of Companions is similarly orchestral and dramatic, but the lyrical content – seemingly about a separation of some kind – is much less obvious. The song starts out softly and builds with a stretching, swelling organ sound, upon which float Standell-Preston’s careful phrasing and thrilling vocal leaps. It has the feel of a gorgeous lullaby that is achingly building to something more.
The second song, and the next strongest track, “Joni,” is much more upbeat – a quirky, melodic electronic song, marked by a battering of beats under urgent vocals. “Trophies for Paradox” is cocoon-like with its intricate ticking/clicking effects and smooth melody. The lyrics seem to be from the perspective of someone coolly considering a relationship, while studying a prospective individual. “Sweet World” is the dreamy, minimalist final track, reminding me of some early music by an old friend. It swells intriguingly with layers of “ahh’s” and the repeated line, “Don’t take back what you say.”
With Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith completing the line-up, Braids are on tour now and I recommend catching them on May 26th at The Echo.