Having formed in 2006 over a blueberry muffin in a high school in Calgary, art rock trio BRAIDS have been experimenting with their sound since their inception. Not quite genre-defying, but never resting creatively, how will their latest album, Euphoric Recall perform?
Art rock is but one of the myriad of tiny subgenres under the monster genre of rock. But in fairness to BRAIDS, they do a good job of exemplifying the genre. ‘Supernova’ is an eight minute odyssey of a track that opens with a minimal set of vocals from singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston, before gradually adding in strange samples and noises that can only be described as scraping metal and banging an assortment of objects. If you asked me to create a track that was created by some stereotypical art students given access to instruments – and a kitchen, I don’t think I could have created a track more like that image.
Joking aside, it’s not a bad track at all. The eight minutes might lean heavily into its experimental, indie sound, but it manages to stay cohesive throughout, free in its form, but structured enough to stay within its bounds.
Standell-Prestons voice is the lynchpin of the album as we flow through this odd jungle of sounds, at times sounding like Tori Amos, with some real human emotion and power, she occasionally squeaks, yelps and squeals to punctuate her words, or simply add to the track overall. ‘Left/Right’ starts off with odd burbling noises and vocalisations before falling into a Halsey-esque vocal tone, underlined with a jangling synth melody AND bassline, that tilts more into the indie, even if that’s 99% thanks to the synth.
The experimental sound doesn’t always continue to get stranger however. The band have happily slipped several more ‘chart ready’ tracks in amongst the animals noises and grinding samples. The dreamier melody of ‘Apple’ sets in, the album starts off in summery, almost pop rhythm – let yourself sink into the sound overall and you might not pick up the jarring, surreal lyric repeated over and over ‘staring at you, my apple’.
‘Millennia’ falls further into this dreamy miasma of sound that the previous songs lay down for it, vocals becoming more ethereal along with the looped synths. Pounding bass interjects every few bars to jolt you from the comfort of the song. The issue with lots of more… contemporary music is the lack of peers for comparison. Hard to compare to simply rock, indie, ambient or electronica – it can be hard to set a bar to measure it against. Some tracks such as ‘Left/Right’ mentioned above feel unique and memorable from the beginning. But if the track, and as such the album at large, need to feel memorable to be ‘good’ then ‘Lucky Star’ fails at this juncture.
It threatens to kill off focus in the album due to it slipping outside of the realms of a dreamy listen and simply into sleep. The track feels like it would be more at home on a generic meditation playlist than a genuine curated and produced album – except for some of the discordant organ sounds that hover menacingly around the track.
It really doesn’t help that it’s exceptionally long (9 minutes 23 seconds long) ‘Retriever’ continues this loss of energy and drags the ending out, sapping you the listener of the positive energy cultivated up to this point before near enough dropping you at the closing, and title track ‘Euphoric Recall’. A clattering reprise hurtles you through the album in a manner akin to that awful horror boat sequence in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory – you know the one.
Experimental and progressive music might glean us some greats, and might broach totally new areas of the musical landscape. However, sometimes it yields something strange, new but largely mediocre overall despite some strong efforts.
Author: Tom, Cardiff Store