Big|Brave – A Gaze Among Them

If anyone seriously doubts the efficacy and emotion of what is essentially classed as Drone, then they have never experienced Canadian outfit Big|Brave. They have toured with bands more eagerly anticipated than themselves: but those bands oft flounder at the point of displaying true emotion. It’s here where Robin Wattie and Mathieu Ball, along with drummer Loel Campbell, find a real connection while exploiting the wondrous virtues of focus and silence.

When ‘Muted Shifting Of Space’, the opening track of latest album A Gaze Among Them (Southern Lord Records), kicks into life, the usual aspects beg attention: the pulverising might of drums; the howling belief; the staggering trauma of Wattie’ s clear vocal; and the rippling, resonant chords. This is a vibrant display of past experiences that differs from 2015’s sparse epic Au De La (Southern Lord Records) yet is somehow more powerful, more inclusive. Wattie shows occasional delicacy, a breathy sensuality which adds another dimension to the band’ s sensibility: a brutal feeling borne of initial tenderness to which every listener can affiliate.

‘Holding Pattern’ does hark back to those 2015 days: Wattie’s voice sailing plaintively over the quietly swelling power, a resounding noise that builds ever so gradually into a wounded, defensive anger. A more rounded sound fires in with rich textures adding a fuller feel to those monumental rhythms, the fuzz reverberating through the aeons. It’s Campbell who dictates this incredibly fraught track: his power ebbing and flowing but never changing pace as the strings crash and squall around him to create a dazzling, intricate crescendo.

Big|Brave’s raison d’ être is to create a tension, a build-up of anxiety and anticipation the listener which replicates a resigned hurt in the band’ s delivery: a bit like trying to gain the trust of a mistreated child. Wattie’s early wails in the beyond-superlative ‘Body Individual’ display an agonised sense of loss yet recede to a hypnotic, Om-style air, while all the time instruments grow and fade in blissful chaos. The feelings resulting from the slow, pulverising yet often melodic swell are difficult to describe: a paradox of messianic fervour and anaesthetised stupor with the latter involuntarily, inexplicably controlling the former.

‘This Deafening Verity’ is an unusually brief walk into howling isolation, an ambience creating the warm beauty of the yawning chasm of space. It leads into closer ‘Sibling’ , the hostile shards of Electronica firing bolts of anger while the sad yet tempered vocal displays a grief-soaked shock of blood being lost to eternity. The silence before the pulsing crush is deafening, the melancholy of the final minutes rising above the heaving storm clouds. It’s a devastating climax to what is, quite simply, a work of shattering weight and magnificence. The fight to be objective about Big|Brave is futile; this band will touch and disturb you like no other, in ways you never thought you could be. Forget classic of its genre: A Gaze Among Them is a classic of its time.

9 / 10

PAUL QUINN