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BIG|BRAVE, the elemental ensemble of guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie, guitarist Mathieu Ball, and drummer Tasy Hudson, harness an earthen heaviness composed of distorted and textural drones, austere bombast, and Wattie’s heart-rending voice. Like recent collaborators The Body, BIG|BRAVE is at the forefront of reconfiguring the landscape of heavy music. The trio brandish sparseness and density like weapons, cast tense atmospheres with languid tempos and mutate feedback into eruptions of enveloping tempests. nature morte sharpens BIG|BRAVE’s ferocity and expansive sound into emotional elegies for the disenfranchised, wringing abstracted textures and pure fervence into songs of unfathomable mass.
The title nature morte is the French term for still life paintings whose literal translation is “dead nature.” BIG|BRAVE color the songs of nature morte with unease, creating an air of beauty in decay, chords suspended in contemplative stillness. Wattie’s experiences structuring lyrics and song forms on The Body & BIG|BRAVE’s Leaving None But Small Birds informed her work on nature morte, creating stories that, like many folk tales, are at once specific and universal. Wattie’s voice manages to be commanding and vulnerable with impressive range and intimacy. Even her gasps carve their way through the tidal crash of Ball’s distortion wail and the pummel of Hudson’s drums. “the fable of subjugation” conveys pain through strained drones free of time, an aching minimalism that withers slowly before bursting in an outright roar. nature morte is an excavation of dark inner chasms of feelings both ineffable and visceral. The album tackles the folly of hope, the consequences of trauma, often centers on the subjugation of femininity in all its pluralities. “It is violent and terrible. It is crushing and alarming. It is common and basic,” says Wattie. “It is catastrophic and disheartening.”
The momentum of nature morte conjures the image of a beast collapsing beneath its own weight before resiliently staggering upright to thunder onward. BIG|BRAVE convey heft from silence as deftly as they do from swaths of feedback and distortion to cathartic ends. “Distortion is key,” notes Ball. The three members recorded primarily live over the course of a week at Machines with Magnets with Seth Manchester, pushing the potential of their instruments beyond expectations. For each song the trio’s songwriting and attention to detail deliver its simple but devastating emotional power. On “the parable of trusting” Hudson’s cymbal clangs reverberate through Ball’s guitar, stirring out a hauntingly hollow texture. On “my hope renders me a fool,” plumes of low growl and crooning feedback dissolve into clean pensive chords. Opener “carvers, farriers, and knaves,” one of the most relentless and bracing pieces in their oeuvre, deliver with the soar of guitar and voice twisting atop Hudson’s bouldering percussion creating an imposing terrain. Across the album’s six pieces BIG|BRAVE create a tension between immediacy and patience, invoking the essence of disquiet, while conveying anguish through inventive arrangements and nuanced performances. nature morte captures BIG|BRAVE at their heaviest and their mournful fury is at its zenith, an album where each moment is so immense and consuming that it possesses its own gravitational pull.