Music

Braids: Deep in the Iris

The Montreal trio's latest album shows an increasingly refined sense of knowing when to nurture one impulse and temper another, embracing compromise without sacrifice.


Braids

Deep in the Iris

Label: Arbutus
US Release Date: 2015-04-27
UK Release Date: 2015-04-28
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Braids have been no less hesitant to engage directly with their influences than they have been to move beyond them. There were some overt Animal Collective-isms of their debut, Native Speaker, but they were all but entirely put to bed by the time the album was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize in 2011. Flourish // Perish was a polar shift in tone and temperature, swapping Native Speaker's sweaty physicality for a presence that summoned every available synonym for ice. The irrepressible collegiate energy embodied by Raphaelle Standell's visceral howl on songs like "Glass Deers" was largely tamed on Flourish // Perish, save for a few exceptions like "Ebben" and the final salvo, "In Kind".

Along with those two standout tracks, "December" laid out a new blueprint for Braids, who were by that point a trio after the departure of keyboardist Kate Lee. A twilight tryst between feverish Feels-style propulsion and the stark timbres of Björk's Vespertine, especially notable in the closeness of Standell's delivery. Though live drums appeared consistently on Flourish // Perish, other traditional tools were swapped for digital twitches, snags, and stomps. Only several months before in that same year, Standell's other endeavor, Blue Hawaii, had released their album Untogether, and the distance between the two projects seemed to be closing fast. Untogether was, by a matter of one or two degrees, less engaged with finding hooks than with selecting the most intriguing corners in which to look for them, but both projected cool demeanors while they waded up to their hips in intricate, fidgety production.

Not two full years on from Flourish // Perish, and Braids appear inclined to put a little space between themselves and all the “cold” analogies. Trading a stark grey image of water for a warm green one for their new album's cover – or what can appear to be a topographical view of a mountain range, depending on how hard you squint – is only one of the more obvious gestures in that direction (as is naming a song "Warm Like Summer"). Mountains actually served as the backdrop for the creation of Deep in the Iris. To begin the process, Standell, Austin Tufts, and Taylor Smith visited out-of-the-way places in upstate New York, Vermont, and even Prescott, Arizona.

According to the band (via a post on its website), they did this not purely to crank out new material, but to spend time "breaking down barriers of self-scrutiny, judgment, expectations, pushing to be raw and vulnerable in front of one another, [and] focusing on process rather than goal." Retreating to rural locales in order to disconnect from the unceasing buzz of civilization and process personal experiences is a time-honored tradition in modern music. If these team building retreats worked to bring the three of them closer together as a unit then that is all for the better, but being able to fully express their ideas hasn't, from the outside looking in, appeared to have been one of Braids' weak spots.

Though interpersonally the three may feel more liberated than ever, they are also developing an appreciation for employing a measure of restraint. The songs on Native Speaker had little regard for the time constraints of the pop attention span, often clocking in around the eight-minute mark, feeling out every potential crescendo and muted passage in real time. Flourish // Perish reigned it in length-wise for its first half, but Deep in the Iris goes all in on folding their sound into more marketable structures. By doing so, Braids have hit upon a formula that could continue to work for them for some time to come, if they allow it to.

In particular, the rush of striking playlist oil on that middle ground is palpable on "Taste", the lead track released from the album. “Taste” assuredly shows Braids can do pop, but it still has to be largely on their terms: forthrightly confessional enough to make one squirm, partially culled from dream journals, and something less than optimistic about love's healing potential. "Take me by the throat / Will you push me up against this wall / And spit all your hurt on me / So I can feel my reach", Standell searches, before summing up both the promise and the problem: "We experience the love that we think we deserve."

"Miniskirt" is both more personal and universal; a breakdown of the disparity in how society perceives sexual experience, and the stigmas forced upon women as a result. Standell succinctly picks apart the perspectives that somehow still hold on in these supposedly enlightened times: "For us it's just a stamp to the head / For them another notch in the bed / It's like I’m wearing red / And if I am / You feel you've the right to touch me / Cause I asked for it."

The rallying thrust of the opening mission statement "Letting Go" and the racing closer "Warm Like Summer", elevated by Standell sounding more centered and soulful than ever, get their due prominence, but the quieter introspective narrations of "Happy When" and "Getting Tired" are no less central to a record with very few, if any, truly weak spots. It is an all-laid-bare personal document that can be just as meaningfully experienced in a room full of others. Deep in the Iris doesn't completely dissolve Braids' diverging impulses into one another, but it knows when to nurture one and temper the other, embracing fair compromise without unfair sacrifice.

8
Music
Music

Chewing the Fat: Rapper Fat Tony on His Latest Work From Hip-hop's Leftfield

Fat Tony proves a bright, young artist making waves amongst the new generation of hip-hop upstarts.

Music

The Bobby Lees Strike the Punk-Blues Jugular on Jon Spencer-Produced 'Skin Suit'

The Bobby Lees' Skin Suit is oozing with sex, sweat and joyful abandon. It's a raucous ride from beginning to end. Cover to cover, this thing's got you by the short hairs.

Music

Khruangbin Add Vocals But Keep the Funk on 'Mordechai'

Khruangbin's third album Mordechai is a showcase for their chemistry and musical chops.

Music

Daniel Avery's Versatility Is Spread Rather Thin on 'Love + Light'

Because it occasionally breaks new ground, Daniel Avery's Love + Light avoids being an afterthought from start to finish. The best moments here are generally the hardest-hitting ones.

Music

Buscabulla Chronicle a Return to Puerto Rico in Chic Synthwave on 'Regresa'

Buscabulla's authenticity -- along with dynamite production chops and musicianship -- is irreplaceable, and it makes Regresa a truly soulful synthwave release.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Books
Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Books

'Perramus: The City and Oblivion' Depicts Argentina's Violent Anti-Communist Purge

Juan Sasturain and Alberto Breccia's graphic novel Peraramus: The City and Oblivion, is an absurd and existential odyssey of a political dissident who can't remember his name.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.

Film
Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Film

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Recent
Music

Chewing the Fat: Rapper Fat Tony on His Latest Work From Hip-hop's Leftfield

Fat Tony proves a bright, young artist making waves amongst the new generation of hip-hop upstarts.

Music

The Bobby Lees Strike the Punk-Blues Jugular on Jon Spencer-Produced 'Skin Suit'

The Bobby Lees' Skin Suit is oozing with sex, sweat and joyful abandon. It's a raucous ride from beginning to end. Cover to cover, this thing's got you by the short hairs.

Books

'Perramus: The City and Oblivion' Depicts Argentina's Violent Anti-Communist Purge

Juan Sasturain and Alberto Breccia's graphic novel Peraramus: The City and Oblivion, is an absurd and existential odyssey of a political dissident who can't remember his name.

Music

Daniel Avery's Versatility Is Spread Rather Thin on 'Love + Light'

Because it occasionally breaks new ground, Daniel Avery's Love + Light avoids being an afterthought from start to finish. The best moments here are generally the hardest-hitting ones.

Music

Khruangbin Add Vocals But Keep the Funk on 'Mordechai'

Khruangbin's third album Mordechai is a showcase for their chemistry and musical chops.

Music

Buscabulla Chronicle a Return to Puerto Rico in Chic Synthwave on 'Regresa'

Buscabulla's authenticity -- along with dynamite production chops and musicianship -- is irreplaceable, and it makes Regresa a truly soulful synthwave release.

Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Music

Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish Replace Form with Risk on 'Interactivity'

The more any notions of preconceived musicality are flicked to the curb, the more absorbing Tatsuya Nakatani and Shane Parish's Interactivity gets.

Music

Martin Green's Junkshop Yields the Gritty, Weird Story of Britpop Wannabes

Featuring a litany of otherwise-forgotten budget bin purchases, Martin Green's two-disc overview of coulda-been Britpop contenders knows little of genre confines, making for a fun historical detour if nothing else.

Reviews

Haux Compellingly Explores Pain via 'Violence in a Quiet Mind'

By returning to defined moments of pain and struggle, Haux cultivates breathtaking music built on quiet, albeit intense, anguish.

Reviews

'Stratoplay' Revels in the Delicious New Wave of the Revillos

Cherry Red Records' six-disc Revillos compilation, Stratoplay, successfully charts the convoluted history of Scottish new wave sensations.

Reviews

Rising Young Jazz Pianist Micah Thomas Debuts with 'Tide'

Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.

Music

Why Australia's Alice Ivy Doesn't Want to Sleep

Alice Ivy walks a fine line between chillwave cool and Big Beat freakouts, and her 2018 debut record was an electropop wonder. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, she tries to keep the good vibes going with a new record decked out in endless collaborations.

Books

Five Women Who Fought the Patriarchy

Whether one chooses to read Square Haunting for the sketches of the five fascinating women, or to understand how misogyny and patriarchy constricted intellectual and public life in the period, Francesca Wade's book is a superb achievement.

Film

Director Denis Côté on Making Film Fearlessly

In this interview with PopMatters, director Denis Côté recalls 2010's Curling (now on Blu-Ray) discusses film as a "creative experiment in time", and making films for an audience excited by the idea of filling in playful narrative gaps.

Music

Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.