Review: BIG|BRAVE ‘nature morte’

Roadburn 2018 was a very special edition for me for three reasons: it was the first time I could afford going there, I got to hang out with incredibly talented people for nearly five days, and this was the year when I saw BIG|BRAVE at the Het Patronaat (gosh I miss this place). I would be incapable of describing what I felt during that forty-five-minute set, but it blew my mind so hard that I decided to delve myself into their discography as soon as I would get back to Brighton.

BIG|BRAVE 'nature morte'

I kept banging on to my friends, to my boyfriend at the time, to the crushes I would have later and even to family members who aren’t remotely interested into doom, drone, noise or anything ‘alternative’. It was that bad. But I regret nothing. I knew I was right then, and I’m still right now when I say that BIG|BRAVE are fucking incredible. Can I swear? Well, I am doing it now – sue me!

For those of you fools who still have no idea who BIG|BRAVE are, they are a Montréal-based noise/drone band who love to mix minimalist drum work, doom influences and a lot of distortion. They have been around for a good decade now and have released four incredible studio albums, an EP and a collaborative album with The Body. Now, the trio is back with a fifth record, nature morte (literally ‘dead nature’ but it’s the French term for still life paintings). This new release got me excited like a schoolgirl, and my expectations have been met and exceeded.

The first title and single, carvers, farriers and knaves, sets up the tone pretty quickly with boisterous, pulsating drums from Tasy Hudson (who joined them in 2019), making Robin Wattie’s vocals astoundingly beautiful and Mathieu Ball’s riffs more distorted than ever as it crescendos towards the end. You would think that theft would follow this type of pattern throughout the album, but nay nay, the Canadian trio does not do with complacency and love to go through different directions, like on the fable of subjugation, a quiet-loud-quiet sort of feminist song which deals with the problems of the male gaze and all the shit that female-bodied individuals have to go through daily.

this record is NOT for the faint of heart, it is uncomfortable on purpose…

The track before, my hope renders me a fool, serves as a really nice interlude to give us some time to breathe. In some ways it reminds me a lot the tracks you can find on their previous effort Leaving None But Small Birds (I honestly cannot recommend it enough). Again, I think the interlude is probably a good idea, especially for the non-initiated who would probably think the claustrophobic atmosphere of the record is a tad too much. It’s understandable because this record is NOT for the faint of heart, it is uncomfortable on purpose – the best example would be the one who bornes a weary load. You will have to be into it from day dot, or you won’t be at all, no matter how hard you try.

As for a parable of the trusting, it is a little nugget made to work wonders live, as the minimalist sound of Ball and Wattie’s guitars are being absolutely sublimed by another set of primitive screams, oppressive beats and more distortion. The record ends on another beautiful interlude, the ten of swords, which leaves more space to the sound and allows Wattie to go out on a quieter, softer note, like a lullaby.

The great thing with this record is how Wattie manages to channel pain, trauma and vulnerability at the same time without having to go too hard because Ball’s guitars and Hudson’s drums do exactly what needs to be done to sound as brutally honest as possible. It is made to question you, to challenge you too… and hit that replay button for another listen, if you dare. If you do, well, you know exactly where to find me when they will tour Europe this spring.

Label: Thrill Jockey Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Nessie Spencer