BIG|BRAVE continue minimalist take on heaviness, drone with immersive ‘A Gaze Among Them’

Photo by Rachel Cheng

A lot of heavy music is based on more, heavier, fuller. You’re bombarded with sound and riffs, and the whole idea is to make the music sound as devastating as possible. Often that takes a lot of elements to make that come to fruition, but sometimes it’s even more impressive when a band does the opposite.

Canadian trio BIG|BRAVE have made more with less for nearly a decade now, and even since landing with Southern Lord three albums ago, the band has developed a wider audience among many different pockets of folks who like heavy music. They opened a lot of eyes and ears with 2015’s great sophomore record “Au De La” and stellar follow-up in 2017’s “Ardor,” and now they’re back with “A Gaze Among Them,” a five-track album that resets what you expect when you sit down with a heavier record. The band mixes post-rock, drone, and atmospheric doom, and on this album, they let things breathe more and the oxygen envelop their creation. The band—guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball (both use a variety of guitar and bass amps), and drummer Loel Campbell—takes a more minimalist approach to these creations, and in doing so, they manage to make this music sound like it developed in the heavens and poured down in black storms that saturate the earth and your body.

“Muted Shifting of Space” opens the record with slow drumming, guitars awakening, and everything building into the mix. The track conjures a dream state, as Wattie’s singing bounces over top the din, and the track gets numbing, with her vowing, “You don’t get to continue,” and later more forcefully declaring, “You don’t get to do this.” The pace is calculated, with noises crashing, and the track easing off. “Holding Pattern” has drone ringing in, Wattie’s voice piercing, and the drums picking up, adding to the rumble. “They took the names, all!” Wattie delivers purposefully, while the intensity and volume expand from there. The noise quivers and breaks before drums bask anew, and Wattie yells, “Body and blood!” repeatedly as the track keeps unloading, with the guitars finally stabbing their last.

“Body Individual” hums and foams, with the sounds building a fog wall and the vocals calling out into the mystery. Guitars jolt like lighting through a heavy storm, while the drums flatten the path, and the music lathers. Feedback meets echoed singing, as your eardrums are tested, and then the volume slowly picks up as the vocals push back, and the song slowly disintegrates. “The Deafening Verity” is the shortest song here at 2:56 (nothing else is shorter than 7 minutes), with spacey noises spreading, alien vibes being set, and Wattie’s singing hovering over ghostly, buzzing drone. “Sibling” closes the record as sounds soar and sting, whipping back at you, and burly waves continue to crash down and over the band during the entire song. That’s done while the vocals have a deliberate vibe, the playing keeps pumping, and your senses are beaten and driven into hypnosis while the song gently fades away.

There are many different settings that are perfect for BIG|BRAVE’s music, thought I prefer isolation in dark reflection, letting emotions splash over me and soothing the senses. “A Gaze Among Them” is another strong record from this band that’s been on a steady creative bend, always coming back with something different from the time before. If you haven’t seen this band live yet, definitely change that first chance you get, as the experience is even more immersive. Until then, let this album destroy your expectations of what immersive, emotionally crushing music can be.

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