BRAIDS’ debut full-length, Native Speaker, was shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize on the strength of Animal Collective-caliber chirpy rhythms, sharp vocals and choppy synth work. Flourish // Perish, the Montreal band’s second album, has an even more ambitious influence: Björk’s electro-glitch masterpiece Vespertine. At its core, Flourish // Perish is built around icy keyboard drones, clipped digital splotches, cut-and-paste vocal manipulation and Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s acrobatic enunciation. Guitars are practically nonexistent; only the album-closing “In Kind” features the instrument, and even then, these corrugated sweeps blend into the electronic textures and Standell-Preston’s Elizabeth Fraser-like trilling.
While slightly jarring at first, the digital shift suits BRAIDS well. If anything, it allows the band more freedom to experiment with arrangements and sound sculpting. “Amends” gradually adds layers of shimmering rhythms atop minimalist techno; the playful “Victoria” has a lush of rippling, backdrop of nature-like sound effects; and “Girl” merges watercolor-faint piano with an ambient underbelly. Flourish // Perish‘s centerpiece is the eight-minute “Together,” a delicate balance of organic and electric: It’s a dramatic and intense song, entirely indicative of both BRAIDS’ maturation as a band.