Sunday, September 18, 2011

Show review: BRAIDS, Painted Palms at The Empty Bottle, 9/13

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Standell-Presto weaving dreamscapes
It's been a while since I've been as pleasantly surprised by a band as I was Tuesday night at The Bottle by Painted Palms. The San Francisco trio had been described to me as "Animal Collective-y," which was apt, but by no means the whole story. The group's numbers rose up  from blippy aural sludge like an LSD-dipped Swamp Thing, eventually finding their footing in new wave grooves that called back to the likes of Depeche Mode. "Water Hymn" carried an ominous, floral intro straight through ploppy percussion to create a kind of sonic rain forest populated by hipster yodeling and magnetic bends. Painted Palms more upbeat tunes were impossible not to bop along to, almost forcing me to imagine the them decked out in baby blue tuxedos playing at the stoner space prom that I'm now eagerly awaiting.

The night's main attraction, Montreal dream-poppers BRAIDS, took the stage beneath The Bottle's lazily-draped Christmas lights looking a bit hesitant. That proved to be deceptive, as the group stretched and battered their songs more than I anticipated they would. For a band whose reputation has been built on constructing lush, buoyant soundscapes, BRAIDS played them with a kind of Blonde Redhead punch. Much of the material came from the band's 2011 release Native Speaker, but only about half of the set carried the same porcelain dynamic that makes the album great for making out on a soft couch in a dimly-lit room. "Lemonade" was even more tense live, with singer Raphaelle Standell-Presto yanking her vocals away from sweet whispers and towards Björkian freak-outs. Austin Tufts' rapping, spider's leg drum-work kept tighter songs in their place while jazzy warbles and startling snaps were the cues for others to move towards walls of skrinkling sounds that would've been at home on Sonic Youth's Washing Machine. Those noise interludes occasionally collapsed into sloppy muddle but rarely overstayed their welcome.

As if aware that these stretches of less-focused exploration weren't their forte, BRAIDS returned after each with snug melodies and hypnotic vocals. "Glass Deers" stayed true to its recorded version with Standell-Presto singing in a childlike, apologetic tone that all but eliminated any chance that you weren't going to fall in love with her by set's end. Katie Lee's keyboard wasn't as prevalent during the show as it was on Native Speaker, but when it did make an appearance the songs were better for it. As the final tune melted into a the-cassette-deck-is-eating-my-tape panic I couldn't help but think that I'd just witnessed a 21st century Fantasia, and that's the beautiful thing about BRAIDS: their songs are both magical and satisfying, parts easily consumable and parts the kind of dreams that only make you want to dream some more.


Check out more show reviews:
Peter Bjorn & John at Empty Bottle
Paper Mice at Treasure Town
Close Hits at Weeds
Bullied by Strings at SubT
Eavesdropping on Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field

1 comment:

  1. If Swamp Thing are half the band that Depeche Mode are i'm in love!