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nature morte Alex Deller , February 22nd, 2023 10:25

Canadian trio tear downt heir fortress of solitude in a mighty cathartic howl, finds Alex Deller

Montreal’s BIG|BRAVE are a band whose career thus far has been marked by poise, glyph-like inscrutability and a startling degree of control. Each successive release has felt like a careful refinement, with the trio marshalling huge pillars of glimmering, prismatic sound as they explore space and dynamic while pressing forward into realms that are both stately and crushingly, achingly sad.

nature morte, the band’s seventh album, serves an odd and somewhat contradictory dual purpose, seemingly both a logical continuation and a break from past form. While sonically this is unmistakeably BIG|BRAVE – elegant and undeniably beautiful but also shoulder-saggingly heavy – something seems to have come wonderfully untethered.

There’s a newfound volatility to the music, with riffs hurled like lit fireworks and Tasy Hudson’s drumbeats landing with harsh, skull-cracking finality. Robbin Wattie’s voice, though, exhibits the greatest change. Still singular and distinctive – think a mid-way point between Björk and PJ Harvey – she now seems to be drawing from even deeper emotional and psychic reserves, exhibiting both scorching power and a disintegratory sense of desperation as she processes trauma and epochal wrongs.

A careful, teetering balance has been achieved, whereby grace and immensity of scale are underpinned by something explosive and untamed. The scratchy rattle opening ‘the one who bornes a weary load’, for instance, initially speaks to the irritable angularity of Bastro or Shellac before moving into slow swells of sound, scattered percussion and luminescent cries that become increasingly furious and disconsolate as huge, sculpted blocks of guitar noise begin to crumble and decay. The carefully-wrangled drone of ‘my hope renders me a fool’ seems to nod toward guitarist Mat Ball’s solo LP, glowering yet somehow pretty, like thunderclouds rimmed with gold. It vanishes in a light haze of skeletal noodling from which then builds ‘the fable of subjugation’ – a track that begins like a piece from the band’s Leaving None But Small Birds collaboration with The Body, before erupting into a cathartic surge that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 90s Neurosis album.

A draining, breath-snatching release, nature morte satisfies on an intellectual level as much as one that is viscerally primal: if past releases have witnessed them painstakingly recreating a sonic approximation of Superman’s crystalline Fortress of Solitude; this is the one that sees them howling their hearts out as they bring it all crashing down around you.