by Cameron Seibold
Praveen Sharma only started releasing music under his solo alias Braille roughly four years ago. Previously, Sharma was known for his collaboration with popular underground dance musician Travis Stewart (aka Machinedrum) on their short lived duo known as Sepulcure.
The release of the “Everyone’s Crazy” EP functions as the precedent to Braille’s forthcoming full-length, “Mute Swan,” to be released on label Friends of Friends. This first release by Sharma’s solo moniker showcases his affinity for deep rhythms, dance music, hip hop and R&B. While keeping things fairly dark, the album still showcases a solid pop mentality, making the EP fairly progressive and accessible.
On the opening and title track, Sharma starts off with an ultra slow tempo, futuristic R&B vibe. The track showcases his smooth and sultry style with shimmery synths, organic and creative percussion (comparable to electronic duo Mount Kimbie) and pitch-shifted vocals manipulated to create a collage of ambiguous and sexy lyrics.
The low-key, driving-with-the-windows-down vibe rolls into the next track. One aspect of this EP is how well it works together from song to song. The transitions are seamless, but the tracks different enough to warrant a listen of each one.
“I Know” continues in the same vein, with more of the same vocal cuts singing soulful ambiguous phrases over the top of brilliant analogue synths and hip hop-influenced sampled rhythms. But just as you get comfortable with the track being a slow roller, Braille subtly switches it up just enough to create an interesting change of pace, with more warbly synth work reminiscent of English artist Lone.
“Small Downs” is the only track that really goes off the rails on the EP, and like so much of electronic music these days, it plays into pure ‘90s rave nostalgia. Big, bold synth stabs dominate the track, building from tribal rhythms into a jungle/hardcore infused beat, with Braille’s Burial-esque vocal samples sprinkled on top. While it’s not exactly an original idea at this point, it’s definitely not an unwelcome addition to the EP, and I can’t help but love this style of track even though it may be getting just a little bit overdone.
“Too Forward” brings the tempo back down, returning to what we heard in those first few tracks. Braille is cutting out a nice, slow-rolling, analogue-driven R&B style all his own with this first release on Friends of Friends.
The final track “I Was Gonna Make It” slows things down even further to cap it off. The vocal style on this track ends on a high note by switching things up from the previous tracks. It sounds like the same vocal track played at an octave higher and an octave lower, cutting out the original pitch in between. It’s Madlib-esque, very textural and satisfying to listen to. The chant becomes almost hypnotic over time. The complex textures and ear-pleasing percussion bring this EP to a nice strong finish.
As a big fan of Sepalcure and Machinedrum, I couldn’t recommend this short debut EP by Braille enough. If you enjoy artists like James Blake (at least his instrumental side), Mount Kimbie and Lone, you should definitely give this one a shot. It’s a short listen, clocking in at just around 25 minutes, but it’s a big start nonetheless. If this is any indication of Braille’s forthcoming release on Friends of Friends, it’s going to be a really strong follow-up LP to a pleasantly surprising EP.