Show Review: Braids At The Great Hall

By Marko Cindric, Photos by Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

Last Friday marked the Toronto arrival of Montreal-based trio Braids. The dream pop outfit are currently touring to promote their newly released sophomore album, Flourish // Perish. The album itself marks the group’s evolution from the guitar-based compositions of debut album Native Speaker to more experimental, synthesizer-generated tones. Braids played The Great Hall on Friday night, and Demo was there for the fun.

Floridian producer Kodak to Graph started the night off right with a stream of dreamy, immersive soundscapes. Despite the relative emptiness of the room at the time, he kept his energy at a tenacious high as he charged through a gapless set of chillwave and ambient tunes. He occasionally surfaced live vocals for particular tracks, though I found that these moments came a bit too rarely considering the beauty of his voice, especially when layered with the lush instrumentation.

Hundred Waters

Hundred Waves at The Great Wall

Hundred Waters were next to grace the stage, and immediately set the mood for Braids with their ethereal sound. While the crowd was quite talkative during their set, the fascinating musical textures and challenging time signatures were still audible and appreciable. The band seized control of the room, with psychedelic light projections aiding the music in creating a new atmosphere. It’s perhaps a bit surprising to note that Hundred Waters are currently signed to OWSLA—a vanity record label started by some guy named Skrillex.

Braids themselves took to the stage at around 11:30. The band started their set with a hilariously sweet soundcheck involving an impromptu ditty honouring the sound guy, as well as some sort of poem about snails (the meaning of which I don’t quite understand). After confirming that everything was in order, the band kicked the show into gear with “Together” and immediately had the crowd dancing to its mechanical percussion. Contrary to Hundred Waters, Braids kept their lighting simple, though the performance was so captivating that extravagant lighting was unnecessary; the complexity of the songs puzzled me so much that I’d spent much of the show simply trying to figure out what each member was doing. Vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston made even the most challenging notes of “In Kind” sound effortless and did not break out of key for an instant. Drummer Taylor Smith has an acute understanding of rhythm the likes of which I’ve yet to encounter elsewhere. As for Austin Tufts, I’m still impressed with his incredible use of that marimba MIDI controller.

Braids

Raphaelle Standell-Preston of Braids at The Great Hall

Fans expecting “classic” Braids—that is, anything from Native Speaker—may have left Friday’s show disappointed. However, the evolved sound of Flourish // Perish still possesses the same complexity and experimentation as its forerunner, and live shows are more entertaining than ever with the band gravitating between straight-up dance numbers like “Amends” and tonal soundscapes like “Hossak.” The trio also brought out a number of new songs, a true crowd-pleaser for longtime fans.

In conclusion, don’t hesitate to see these guys next time they’re in Toronto—they’re only going to get bigger.

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