Big | Brave set out on a sonic journey influenced and inspired by diverse forces. For the band, on the one hand there was the elusive pull of their native Montreal post-rock scene, but on the other side there was the inclination towards the heavier post-metal and drone trajectories. It was this dichotomy that fuelled two excellent works in Au De La and Ardour, and Big | Brave now returns with their fourth overall full-length and their most complete work to date in A Gaze Among Them.
Big | Brave always relied on the creation of space. They thrived within the environments and sceneries that their heavy sound could inhibit. It is something that can be achieved through subtle, straightforward means as in the heavy, echoing drums that open up the record in “Muted Shifting of Space.” This tendency follows through minimal investigations as well, with the band using the spacious scenery of the track to produce exquisite circular movements, as is the case with the hammerous “Sibling.” But, it is the simple yet formidable build-up they incorporate that makes things more interesting, with the opening track seeing the heavy guitars and vocals joining the towering drumming.
The minimalist touch and the sparse layout grant the record a sense of volume, making it feel like a physical object. But, Big | Brave make certain that this is not an unchanging journey, and through their impeccable taste when it comes to distortion and sound design, they awaken an otherworldly experience. The opening track explodes halfway through, turning the already disfigured guitars into a mutilated crescendo, splashing colors over the soundscapes in the process. This slow morphing of the instrumentation is also capable of adding a sense of volatility to the procedure, with “Hold Pattern” being a prime example of that effect. At the same time, it is this approach that further allows Robbin Wattie’s performance to reach a transcendental peak. Moving swiftly and confidently through feedback and heavy riffs, she is able to always awaken a plethora of emotions. Her timbral characteristic is able to pierce through the heavy veil of distortion, echoing powerfully through the corridors of A Gaze Among Them, but it can also provide an aura of sentimentality for the stripped down minimal settings, while retaining an ethereal presence for example in “Holding Pattern” and “This Deafening Verity.”
A Gaze Among Them does not feel so much like a new chapter for the band. But, with their new record Big | Brave radiate with a feeling of ease and certainty as to their concepts. This is highlighted mostly on the progression of the individual tracks, but also the overall flow of the record. The way in which Big | Brave is able to dive into the plateaus of their compositions and then rise to the surface to reach devastating peaks is astounding in this case. Sprouting from minimalist origins “Holding Pattern” builds upon an impressive and erratic performance, while the off-kilter approach of “Body Individual” sees them bounce between minimalism and heavy, drone rock by way of free improv. A Gaze Among Them finds a band comfortable in its skin, moving with mastery through its concepts and moulding effortlessly its vision to produce its strongest work to date.