BIG|BRAVE is a band I’m relatively new to the table on. This last year they arrived on my radar, mostly due to the stellar review by Jamie Grimes of their latest album, Vital, on this very webzine. After reading the it, I invested in a vinyl copy, and since its arrival I’ve been keen to hear more from the Montreal trio. With that in mind, when the offer came in to review the collaboration album they’ve been working on with Portland’s The Body, I jumped at the chance, hoping that what came next would be an even crazier outpouring indeed.
To my surprise, what I’ve found is actually something altogether different from the path I thought I was going to be led down. After reading some of the back story, it summarises that the guys from The Body approached BIG|BRAVE, to put together something within the Americana folk style, and it’s not at all what I would have imagined them proposing at all.
Straight off the bat, from repeated listening’s, I want to throw out there a comparison musing I had. For me, and I don’t know if its deliberate, or somewhat of a happy accident, but the whole project sounded so reminiscent of Kristin Hersh, and Throwing Muses. It has that quirky alternative Americana vibe going on, and even the vocal reminded me of Kristin’s delivery. That being said, it really doesn’t take away at all from what is a fantastic album, and over the seven tracks, a truly magical album unfolds before my very ears.
Blackest Crow opens the album, and even from the opening bars, there’s an air of relaxed, non-threatening ambience, and even when the percussion kicks in, it still retains that chilled sixties vibe. If they wanted to capture Americana folk, even from the very offset, its mission accomplished. There’s a lovely fiddle sound which runs through the track too, and it’s that which really grabs my attention, a real nice attention to detail, and so welcome in the piece.
It’s Robin Wattie’s stellar performance which really captivates me though. If it’s one thing that I’m really passionate about, it’s a strong female vocal. Disregarding the genre, or style, it could be ethereal ambience, right through to screeching hardcore or death metal, there’s something about a strong, versatile voice, which really completes any piece of music I really enjoy.
Gloomy, foreboding, and yet completely all consuming…
On Blackest Crow, it’s that which pulls this from being a nice alternative rock piece, with a folk twinge, into a real lavish piece of art. The grungy guitars monotonously swaggering through the background really give it a bit of additional grit, but it’s that sense of urgency and pain in the vocal, that really brings it out for me.
Oh Sinner capitalises on the groundwork of Blackest Crow, and the outcome is another slice of alternative fold Americana goodness. What I do notice, even from this early juncture, is that no one really caters for this style anymore. It used to be quite the thing in the nineties, there were too many bands to aim at for comparison, but in the twenty first century, it seems to be a relic sound, from a long-forgotten time. I think this is why it holds so much love with me. I still very much enjoy dropping off the heavy radar occasionally and diving back into this alternative soundscape.
The two tracks that I enjoyed going back to several times, are Hard Times and Polly Gosford, but both for very different reasons. The former is both mesmerising, and stylistically quirky. With the disjointed instrumentation, its actually the vocal which carries the track. It plays through like some sort of chant, it’s as all-consuming as it is engaging. While Polly Gosford is quite possibly the darkest moment on the whole album. Instantly darker in tone, there’s an ominous soundtrack, overlaid with an intensely dark vocal. Gloomy, foreboding, and yet completely all consuming.
As pairings go, this could have been a far darker venture indeed, so the mere fact that it isn’t, really shows the versatility with everyone involved. If this were a project that came together again in the future, I would be very keen to hear more, that’s for sure.
Like I said right at the beginning, it really reminded me of other artists, but that doesn’t take away from its uniqueness at all, and I think this has been a successful collaboration. If you want something that isn’t to imposing, yet thoroughly enjoyable, then I think you would appreciate this, and even more so if you have a real hankering for that alternative nineties Americana, as this could easily have come from that period.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish