If you are familiar with Praveen Sharma’s Braille moniker, the meer mention of the name might incite an immediate association with dance floor tunes that hover around the house clique with some extra focus on the lower end of the frequency spectrum. You might be forgiven then if you think that his debut LP, Mute Swan will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Fort Romeau and George Fitzgerald, delivering punchy house tracks in a unique style, subdued in places by the odd album track. You’d soon regret making those assumptions however as you come face to face with an album that shows a very different side to the house producer. In a recent chat with Sepalcure compatriot Travis ‘machinedrum’ Stewart for XLR8R, Sharma delves in to the reasons for his severe exodus from the dance floor, citing “the most clichéd things in the music world’” as the catalyst for Mute Swan. “The mute swan is a bird that mates for life, and that’s really where it come from—it’s the feeling of having a connection with someone for life.” We find Braille wearing his heart on his sleeve on this debut LP, as he submerges himself in his emotions after a break-up. Mute Swan is presented in dubby arrangements with parts that tend to loiter rather than progress; setting a sober melancholy mood for the album that starts with some gliding pitches on Weight. The fully-fledged songs are often built on rocky outcrops of beats smoothed over with sustained pads and the evocative vocals often supplied by Angelica Bess. Her addition to Better than nothing gives the rigid effect of the stuttering percussion a human face as the bass rises up from the unknown depths of a subterranean sprawl. On Ports the singer accompanies the laid-back arrangement and re-conceptualises the sounds grafted from a house palette into songs rather than dance tracks.
It’s something that Sharma manages to perfect during the course of Mute Swan, and in songs like Everyone’s Crazy he offers moments of introspective contemplation with slow moving pads and stark sonic perspectives. It shows something of the restrained approach that Sharma highlighted something else the producer said during that XLR8R interview. “I wanted to make the album more approachable and maybe a little less self-indulgent.” And although we pick up something from that restrained approach in the technicality of the music, the music itself does come across far more loaded than anything Braille has made before. In hindsight this could be an easy assumption to make considering we now know the story behind the album, but songs like Ended in up NY definitely relay solemn emotive moments through slow moving progressions and stripped back arrangements. It’s by the time you reach the plucked guitar strings on that very same track, that you’ve reached a point of no return on Mute Swan as they disperse in the reverb. You give up on finding the accessible dance track to bob your head to and instead you get swept up in the moment of it all. Sharma might have looked for an accessible delivery on the album, but it’s exactly in the little eccentricities that Mute Swan really delivers. In the more adventurous percussive parts of Insider out and The cat’s gone nuts, we find some of the footwork and marginalised methods Sharma has displayed in the past under his various aliases including his work as one half of Sepalcure. It’s an album you can go back to listen to time and again, and it’s little obscurities like the rhythms that stick as the main appeal of Mute Swan. It’s not in the same vein as the club dance tracks we’d come to expect from Braille, but what I found in Mute Swan is a listening album I’d be able to return to rather than set my feet in motion to.