Braids continue to explore, refine, and expand their sound on the ‘Companion’ EP

In the five years since releasing their intriguing and occasionally messy debut, ‘Native Speaker’, Braids have grown steadily from purveyors of erratic art-pop, to embracing a growing musical complexity touching on everything from chilly electronics and proggy rhythms to hints of jazz, to a surprisingly coherent and lush pop unit on last year’s gorgeous but sadly under appreciated ‘Deep In The Iris’, where they found a balance between their often radical shifts and a more grounded pop sensibility that saw them pulling their icy textures into warmer spaces.

One year later, Braids have released a new EP, the appropriately titled ‘Companion’. The four songs were started during sessions for ‘Deep In The Iris’ and have been described by the band as companions to the train of thought started on that album. In terms of quality, these are songs are far from sounding like merely decent outtakes. Musically they continue the streamlined but expansive progression of that album, but they also feel a little looser and chillier at times.

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The pianos on ‘Sweet World’ feel like tiny ripples spreading across a body of frigid water; ‘Trophies for Paradox’ weaves lurching mechanized percussion with warmly plucked strings. Raphaelle Standell-Preston is still capable of coaxing bent and twisted notes from her voice, but in a less grating way than on ‘Native Speaker’. On ‘Sweet World’ her harmonies soar gracefully over trickling pianos and glitch-y percussion, on the title track, the lone song that feels the most understated here, she sings over nothing else than glistening and wheezing synthesizers and a few sparse drops of piano, her voice reaching a new level of depth and beauty.

It’s fortunate that none of these songs ended up on the album, because they stand perfectly fine on their own and show how Braids continue to explore, refine, and expand their sound without forcing anything. The music they are making may not be as experimental as their early work, but the difference now is that they’ve learned to balance their erratic impulses with enough refinement and focus that makes it no less exciting or powerful.

‘Companion’ is out now via Arbutus/Flemish Eye.

This Braids article was written by Jeremy Monroe, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.

Braids 'Companion' - EP REVIEW

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