Album Reviews

BIG|BRAVE: nature morte

The Montreal trio turn up the heat on their Thrill Jockey debut.

With sweltering build-ups filled with tension and hellish atmosphere, the BIG|BRAVE live experience is one of the best tickets in town. Like a paradox in motion, BIG|BRAVE consists of three musicians so unique and singular from one another that it’s hard to pinpoint any other modern day band who operates in similar fashion.

Percussionist Tasy Hudson is John Bonham-like. You only need to hear and not see to know exactly who is behind the kit unleashing the kind of carnage Hudson does. Mat Ball wields his guitar like a madman cleaving through the air with a chainsaw. Walls of feedback and waves of distortion flood through the amps. Then there’s singer/guitarist, Robin Wattie. Her emotive, piercing vocals like a siren call to the disenfranchised and maligned.

Together, BIG|BRAVE celebrate the kind of alchemy many bands could only wish to possess.

On the back their 2021 breakthrough, Vital, BIG|BRAVE have made tremendous strides. At the time, Vital was undoubtedly the Montreal band’s finest work, and on back of extensive touring across the U.S. and Europe, the trio – whilst naturally hesitant – successfully navigated through the post-lockdown haze and uncertainty.

Purity Rising: In Conversation with BIG|BRAVE’s Robin Wattie

In many respects they’ve blown it wide open with nature morte. The blazing follow-up to Vital that completely engulfs the listener like a burning hellscape. Exclusive dealers in hypnotic heaviness, on nature morte BIG|BRAVE deliver a volcanic eruption. An album that showcases all the intensity and vigour this band has always promised to deliver.

Expansive in both texture and tone, BIG|BRAVE continue their exploration through the themes that made Half Breed and their collaboration LP with The Body, Leaving None But Small Birds, such enthralling encounters. Brooding folk tales not limited to the subjugation of femininity throughout generations, on nature morte, BIG|BRAVE are so enriched in decay and earthiness, you can almost taste the soil.

Wattie’s voice is the first instrument we hear on nature morte. “It claims you,”, she sings on carvers, farriers and knaves. Her first call to arms in a song that oozes like a weeping wound, amid groaning distortion and militant percussion.

BIG|BRAVE - nature morte

Road tested during last year’s U.K tour, the one who bornes a weary load is every bit electrifying on tape. It’s where Seth Manchester emerges as BIG|BRAVE’s not-so-secret weapon. His ability to capture the chaos to tape may just be his finest moment behind the console. Amalgamating raw tension with tonal swerves and tremors that could move planets, Manchester continues to be the fundamental component in the alternative metal space. 

Meanwhile, my hope renders me a fool is about as morose as its title suggest. A folk-inspired dirge with the kind of squelching drone that inspired Ball’s excellent 2022 solo release, Amplified Guitar, this piece illuminates the grotesque themes and imagery of nature morte.

Sonically, the fable of subjugation is closely aligned to the band’s aforementioned work alongside The Body. A composition that gently rattles, quickly transforming into a gale-force atrocity. Hudson’s thumping rhythms like a wild horse marauding through a battlefield while Ball’s nuclear blast of noise and Wattie’s sheer cries of anguish match the chaos.

Bruxa Maria: Build Yourself A Shrine and Pray

And like a storm that envelopes that bloodied battlefield comes a parable of the truth – perhaps nature morte’s defining moment. In all its epic bass weight and infinite menace and gloom, this is BIG|BRAVE stamping their authority like all bands do when etching their defining moment into the grooves.

While delivered with unbridled aggression for the most part, thematically this album also demands the delicacy that closing song, the ten of swords, provides. Rather than slamming the door shut, BIG|BRAVE gently fade into the night without a fuss; quite reflective of their persona.

The plinking folk of the ten of swords is a fitting end to nature morte. BIG|BRAVE have always known when to dial down the panache and torrents of carnage. It’s the kind of artistic maturity that bands display when on top of their game. And BIG|BRAVE most certainly are on nature morte in what can be considered their magnum opus.

nature morte is out via Thrill Jockey. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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