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White Noise: Braille – The Storm

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Braille – The Storm

Label: Glass Table

While Praveen Sharma’s name might not be a frequent occurrence on the dance scene, the man certainly knows how to keep busy. Besides running Percussion Lab and releasing via non-dance project Praveen, Sharma’s no newcomer to the dance world. Many will know him best as one half of Sepalcure alongside the unfathomably prolific Machinedrum, yet Sharma’s two dance releases to date have both been worthwhile offerings; bassy takes on house sounds packed with soul, with highlights including The Year 3000 on Rush Hour and his ace Hotflush E. Two years on Sharma makes a welcome return as Braille, fusing kinetic rhythms with an impressive range of vocal and acoustic samples, to ultimately mixed results.

It’s worth pointing out that Braille has never really put out any bangers. Instead, his best cuts, such as the lush, relatively relaxed A Meaning or the stunning emotive rush of Breakup were impressive because of their attention to texture and detail. Sure, they were danceable, but the songs stood out because of deft sample manipulation and clever structure rather than raw muscularity. A couple of the tracks on The Storm are clearly targeted at the dancefloor, and as a result the EP is a bit of a mixed bag. Opener The Storm starts well, revolving chimes married to clean synth stabs and a typical set of great vocal work. But despite the impressive production, particularly the textured percussive work, it never convinces as a whole. The core elements wear thin, failing to keep up the energy over five minutes and lacking any progression to speak of, while others, such as the jazzy chords that occupy the track's final minutes, seem somewhat out of place. Later At a Glance suffers from the same problems, where rising synths and clever vocal clips create an urgency only to be undermined by an incongruous acid line. This odd addition has the unfortunate effect of detracting from the organic soundcraft that makes Braille’s work so interesting in the first place. When the dynamics of such busy music aren’t exactly right, the result is too dense to really enjoy (a criticism that could also be levelled at a few of Sepalcure’s productions).

The Storm / Me & U / At a Glance / Casper

However it’s by no means all bad news, as the other two tracks remind the listener just how great Sharma is when he’s on form. Standout Me & U has atmosphere in spades and crucially each element is given the space it deserves; the rousing gospel-style sample is perfectly placed alongside drowsy pitched-down vocals, while crisp percussive accents are all that’s necessary to compliment the lush arrangement of keys and samples. It’s a really impressive piece of music, which makes one wonder how the other tracks would sound had they been given a little more breathing room. Closer Casper is another great piece: while obvious parallels will be drawn given the 2step woodblock pattern and melancholy atmosphere, Sharma makes the track his own with gorgeous vocal manipulation throughout, whether in the foreground or muttering away deep in the mix. It’s also a deft exercise in structure; the energy slowly mounts around the 3-minute mark as the snares hit harder, the ghost voices (perhaps humorously hinted at by the title) grow louder and busier, before a soft synthline closes the track out with a sigh.

Given such a clear divide between the success of these tracks, it’s clear that Sharma is a very talented producer who needs to play more to his strengths, and perhaps pay more attention to the use of space in his compositions. Of course this is only one reviewer’s opinion, and the EP is a worthwhile listen for its successes; those blissful organic soundscapes that sit happily just outside the dance mainstream.


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