Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin, Recorded @ Breakglass Studio in Montreal, Canada, October 2010 during the Pop Montreal festival
The morning, or noontime, of the taping of this session in Montreal came on the second day that we were in town for the Pop Montreal festival this past October and BRAIDS lead singer Raphaelle Strandell-Preston had had a bit of a time of it already. She had risen early to slip into Breakglass Studio (a wonderful place co-owned by a member of the Besnard Lakes and an establishment that features the console upon which Led Zeppelin recorded "Kashmir," of all songs) a couple hours earlier to record a session with her other group, Blue Hawaii. We're guessing that she skipped out on breakfast and her orange juice, coffee or bagel on the way there because over the course of the first run-throughs of these songs - as levels were getting checked and the tape was about to roll - she began to feel nauseous and light-headed. She charged on, but the thought was that the peaked and fainter than you'd like color to her cheeks was not a good sign and that we should move along a little quicker. It's one of the reasons to explain the four songs that the young hometown band performed here were mashed together into one continuous strain, saving time and hence getting Strandell-Preston some much-needed, goddamn lunch. The other just as good reason for the jammed-together-ness of these lovely songs is that they couldn't survive without one another. It could just be that they'd wither some if they weren't touching, if they weren't all held together by the same vine, sharing the same water and the same nutrients from fingers to toes and from hearts to hearts. The songs on the band's debut album share a similar wind and a connectivity, like a tendon or ligament, as if Strandell-Preston and her many bandmates were doing something almost as exactly as she cooing-ly invites in the opening lines to the album's title track, "Native Speaker," - giving someone permission to roam around her open head for days. It's not going to be as uncomfortable as you fear it might, for she's already made up a bed for you, with a beautiful down comforter and pillows galore. You'll be able to find plenty to keep you stimulated up there. Strandell-Preston is an intriguing songwriter, and one that takes several cues from a writer and singer such as Bjork, plying her words and their enunciations as if she were stretching them to cover a highway. Her thoughts aren't entirely concise and it's absolutely what makes us want to keep listening, as she serves them up with varying instrumentation that takes us into the bellies of her dreams. There's rain on the roof. There's water in the basement and there's plenty in her spine. BRAIDS finds that it's great at spellbinding, giving its sound a world's worth of character. They are the sounds that insects hear the very second before all of the life is zapped out of them as they near those killer lights. The sounds are the songs of the lightning bugs and sleeping leaves and it's the bewildering collision of confidence, sure footing and unknown interpretations of dreams.
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