Keeping true to my obsession with shoegaze, art rock Canadian acts, I could not pass the opportunity to see BRAIDS tour their most recent effort Flourish // Perish(2013), an album that made it’s way through my heart over the summer. Not having seen them before myself , I had friends on one side praising their last performance in Quebec City a year and a half ago and on the other, A House Down The Road fellow writer having been quite disappointed by their EOTR festival performance a few weeks ago, I could not know what to expect. Apart from catching singer Raphaelle perform at a Blue Hawaii gig rendered behind turntables in a London basement bar this summer, it was my first contact with these Montreal-based musicians.
Arriving at Le Cercle a good half hour before the support, my gig mate and I sat down at the bar for a drink. She was there to discover Braids and I tried with all my might to describe with words the music they create. A dreamy, artsy electro pop rock trio? I am not one for categories. What can be said is that the uplifting pop rock vibe of Native Speaker, recorded as a four piece with ex band-mate Katie Lee, has been toned down on Flourish // Perish to shape beautiful space to airier, more delicate touches, to a slower speed. We were impatient to hear.
Tall, handsome, mysterious Mark Webber came on as the first act. Which can only be describe as series of experimental noises achieved by hitting an electric drum pad and playing an electric guitar with a bow, all over a sample of electronic beats. The darkness of the sounds resembled what I can only imagine a black mass would feel like. Although it seemed quite uncomplicated to my none-too-much-electronically-seasoned ears, his magnetic Ian Curtis style voice made the experience enjoyable.
In between sets, I ordered a cider and mingled with old/new friends, catching up. Travel talk, work talk, music talk. Le Cercle is this old bunker like building, stylishly renovated. It’s also familiar ground for me and knowing that I will most likely stumble on pleasant acquaintances creates this community effect I love.
As Braids members started roaming around, adjusting equipment on stage, we made our way to the front of the room. I am a front row enthusiast, even more so when there is no mosh pit eventuality. (Ever since an unfortunate event involving a HateBreed gig, a pair of Doc Martens and my own set of teeth, I have been slightly reluctant to the idea of mosh-pitting.) Opening with a series of songs from the latest album, BRAIDS charmed from the very first note, setting the tone for what was coming. The three musicians were strategically taking place on stage in an easy-to-navigate viewing experience, working individually in their own space to create a whole. All dressed in black without any frills, it all seemed quite solemn.
Fans of Native Speaker might start with a minor reluctance due to the loss of the beautiful second vocalist although their apparent unity rapidly makes you forget your expectations. With it’s icelandic-like reverie, Hossak was lush and eloquently dreamy. In Kind showcased Raphaelle’s impressive vocal range as well as the rare use of electric guitar on Flourish // Perish. Halfway through the song, they paused it, due to a slight mixup and started again. Although a little over perfectionist, it was worth it. Rest assured. if there is one thing about BRAIDS, it is that nothing about their performance is sloppy, nothing is left behind. The songs are rendered as beautifully as on the record and seeing them craft right before the eyes all these complex melodies elaborated in a mazelike fashion is awe-inspiring. My personal highlight; watching Raphaelle distorting her breath-taking voice with twists and turns of little knobs. They ended with 8 minute piece Together, after a short hour session.
And in spite of an apparent timidity, the trio then left the stage not without the singer taking a piss at our charming Premier. Lovely night ❤