Big Brave

Au De La

Big Brave’s Au De La resists categorisation much more than it fits into one genre. The Montreal trio combines elements of Björk, Neurosis, The White Stripes, and Sunn O))) into a cohesive whole; but this whole is an ever evolving and challenging sonic mass. Although Au De La is far from an easy listen, it’s also endlessly rewarding.

‘On The By And By And Thereon’ provides a jarring introduction to the LP. It begins with grating call-and-response guitars (the band doesn’t have a bassist) that sound like two steel mills groaning to each other. As drummer Louis-Alexandre Beauregard joins with minimalistic tom abuse, Robin Wattie provides a juxtaposition to her atonal guitar work with melodically bounding vocals, which sound like a hybridisation between those of Kathleen Hanna and Björk. ‘On The By And By And Thereon’ makes a promise that Au De La fulfills ten times over.

The second track ‘Look At How The World Has Made A Change’ follows the mechanical churn of the first with an atmosphere of hypothermic ether. Similar to many of Merzbow’s compositions, this piece employs delicate electronic orchestration to create a constricting sense of isolation. After Beauregard plays a brief crescendo on his hi-hat, the singer croons, "Shove my body into the dirt/and make it my own". Operating from a similar theoretical stance as free jazz players, Beauregard plays idiosyncratic rolls throughout the remainder of the track, all of which work to emphasise the unsettling core of ‘Look At How The World Has Made A Change’. This toxic smog eventually gains momentum and builds into a primal, post-punk dirge.

The third song pulses with an Amphetamine Reptile rhythm, which the guitarists drown in a sickly curtain of noise. ‘And As The Waters Go’ then embarks upon a similar path as the second song, but this cut culminates in a miasma of eardrum-eroding feedback and anxiety-ridden drumming.

Au De La closes with ‘(re)Collection Part II’. To start things off, the group coalesce monolithic whole notes, over which a wraith of cello notes swirl. Wattie’s haunted chanting provides a contrast to these sounds, ultimately broadening the sonic scope of the track. While the instruments congeal into catastrophic waves, her vocals dance in a whirlwind of reverb. Five minutes into this 13-minute epic, the drums and vocals dissipate, leaving only a droning guitar riff that pays homage to Sunn O))). ‘(re)Collection Part II’ then charges into a chaotic squall – like Lightning Bolt playing a My Bloody Valentine cover — but only to return to a melancholic requiem.

One similarity between many Southern Lord bands is the goal to push boundaries — and often in extreme ways. So it makes perfect sense that the legendary label is releasing Big Brave’s Au De La. Considering that the band have only been playing shows for two years, this album is likely to be followed by many brilliant pieces of music to come.

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