Braids Comfort Zone, Toronto ON, June 13

Braids Comfort Zone, Toronto ON, June 13
Photo: Kevin Jones
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Shorn of keyboardist Katie Lee, Braids 2.0 are at first indistinguishable from singer Raph Standell-Preston's esteemed Blue Hawaii project. The trio, however, possess a poise, somehow both serene and intense, that's distinct from the other band's vibe. Not remotely distracted by technical hitches, Braids' first Toronto airing of new material was virtuosic and otherworldly, Standell-Preston's young-old face decorated with the expression of a woman who's been beamed in from some vibrant spiritual plane, and finds humankind's finicky little quirks just exceptionally amusing.

The set was mesmeric and inviting, less a mid-point between head and body music than the total and simultaneous realisation of both. What felt like repetition actually demonstrated hyper-attentive intricacy, a subtle snowballing tension, doing with two chords what Native Speaker — none of whose songs featured — would splurge a fleet of arpeggios on. Sumptuous panels of synth were impelled to a state of paranoid urgency by malfunctioning ticks and synthesized bass drums, a tidal ebb-and-flow in the mix, which amounted to a sensation not unlike somebody playing Tetris with your brain cells. Towards the set's end, Standell-Preston's vocal peaked and fluttered, her range staggering. It gets under your skin, then flips you inside-out with carefully timed flourishes. Any fears of a departure from Native Speaker's organic warmth are entirely warranted yet entirely irrelevant; despite the stylistic overhaul, you're essentially buying into the same state of mind. But on tonight's evidence, it's a deeper and more alluring beast altogether, an introspective pilgrimage of nonetheless palpable physical force.