Posts Tagged ‘epic’

Southern Lord – 10th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BIG | BRAVE continue their journey by revisiting their roots – as much in terms of principles as sonically. Consequently, A Gaze Among Them is exploratory and dynamic above all else, and herein lies both its strength and appeal: it’s the work of a band pushing themselves, in all aspects of the creative process. and the band pushing themselves pushes the listener, too, leading them through the sweeping vistas imbued with a significant emotional heft. Of course, that’s difficult to quantify, because it’s about the individual. And yet… BIG | BRAVE commutate immediately, transcendentally, and on the basis of their own agenda

Apparently, the album’s creation began with the question “How do we take very little and make something bigger than what we actually have?” Vocalist and guitarist Robin Wattie explains further, “the biggest challenge was to not do what is easiest. i.e. what we knew worked for the last albums or what is, for us, easy to write. With A Gaze Among Them, Mathieu and I put ourselves through the ringer [sic]– I did not want to do what seemed to me to be a ‘logical next step’ in what we could do musically. I wanted to go back to our original concepts and work from there – space, tension, minimalism and voice (finding melody and musicality in pieces that consist of one note for longer than ten minutes, for example) were the primary concentrations I wanted to push.”

The result is – as anyone familiar with their work to date would expect – immense. The emotional power is every bit as impactful as the crushing power chords, which are but punctuation to expansive passages deep in atmosphere.

There is much space and tension to be found both binding and pushing apart the sonic elements that make up the album’s five immense tracks as the drums pound into infinity while the overdriven low-end yawns and surges into peaks and troughs on a scale of a galactic tide.

The nine-minute opener, ‘Muted Shifting of Space’ has all the hallmarks of post-punk melded with shoegaze but performed with the density of hefty sludge, and the raging tempest that explodes in a blistering crescendo at the mid-point of ‘Holding Pattern’ is sublime.

‘Monolithic’ is one of those words that’s slipped into overuse when critiquing music in this field, but it’s apposite in context of the toweringly immense, dense sonic sculptures BIG | BRAVE forge and which cast long, looming shadows into the psyche. There are passages when they sound like a bad, but mostly they sound like something else, something so much greater than the parts. Wattie’s voice is the key defining feature, simultaneously forceful and fragile, calling to mind Cranes’ Alison Shaw as she ambulates and fills the ever-shifting space. It’s a sound that’s haunted, lost, detached, frantic, and other-worldly.

‘Body Individual ’expands that territory, starting sparsely with little more than Wattie; voice ringing out and wrought with an array of conflicting emotions, before a churning mess of noise that builds like latter-day Swans. But the build knows no end: the sound builds, and builds, until it’s all consuming, all-encompassing. It’s something else, and then something else again.

‘This Deafening Verity’ is but an interlude, three minutes of atmospheric organ drone punctuated by distant rumbles of thunder. Robin mewls plaintively, the words unintelligible. It matters not: it conveys so much on its own, inviting the listener to place themselves into the blank spaces, before ‘Sibling’, which prefaced the album’s release grinds its way to the close, a monotonous distorted pulse providing a rhythmic core around which the layers swell from stark to swirling, erupting in dense clouds of nebulous noise around the mid-point. Descriptions and comparisons fall to futility when presented with something this enormous this powerful, particularly when that power stems from a place that’s invisible and impossible to pinpoint.

AA

257800

Christopher Nosnibor

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Jo Quail: the two occasions I’ve seen her this year as an opening act, she’s been on not only early doors, but within minutes of doors opening. So I’m standing outside, in the rain, hearing the strains of her opening piece and feeling frustrated: the doors, set for 7:30, don’t open until 7:40, but Jo, scheduled for 7:40, starts on time. Still, the fact there’s a substantial queue before doors, and that people have packed to the front immediately on arrival is validation, if validation is needed.

She’s no ordinary cellist, utilizing a vast bank of pedals to conjure pulsing rhythms and a grinding undercurrent which flows fluidly as she builds layer upon layer to form cathedrals of sound – appropriate for a venue which a former church, now restored as a venue, and which boasts some of the most magnificent architecture. Her music is immense and powerful, the experience intense, moving, as the compositions transition between graceful and forceful, and Jo channels the range through her posture, at one with the instrument. The third and final piece, taken from her forthcoming LP opens with thunderous explosions and eerie, haunting shrillness, cultivating a dark, industrial atmosphere. And she certainly knows how to build a sustained crescendo: by the end of her set, I feel like I’ve emerged, battered but triumphant, from a tempest, and the respectable audience show real appreciation for an impressive set.

Jo Quail

Jo Quail

Rewind: while queueing in the rain, some irritatingly superior bozos behind me prate on about this and that. One remarks how the support has a forgettable, generic “adjective, something, something, noun’ name. He checks the event on Facebook on his phone, before trilling ‘A Storm of Light…. Yeah, adjective, something noun…” I turn and point out that ‘storm’ is also a noun, and that the new album’s really good. The smug cret thanks me dismissively and returns to babbling about cake at work and the like. I turn back to wait in silence, alone, and I’m fine with it, not least of all because A Storm of Light more than compensate the cold, damp discomfort of the queue.

With relentless, ever-shifting streams from CCTV intercut with cascading pills and the like projected behind the stage, ASOL play in near darkness and they play hard. Cranking out gritty industrial-tinged, grunge-hued post-punk with a dark, metallic sheen seems most incongruous in the setting, particularly given the nihilistic sociopolitical leanings of the lyrics. But we’re on deconsecrated, renovated ground here, and as much as I’m struck by the contextual juxtaposition, I’m struck by the clarity of the sound, particularly the drums, which cut through and pack a serious punch.

lA Storm of Light

A Storm of Light

Veering between claustrophobically taut frameworks and more organic, Neurosis-like expanses, the band create a sonic space that’s very much their own. And throughout the set, the basis lunges, hard, building in intensity as the set progresses: near the end, his instrument is pretty much scraping the floor, and he steps in front of the monitors to deliver some of the most savagely attacking bass playing you’re likely to witness. Not so much a strong performance as an act of total devastation.

Mono are considerably less abrasive, and I some ways, feel like a little bit of a step down. They sit down to play, for a start. It makes for a mellow atmosphere, but renders them invisible to anyone not in the first few rows, for a start.

Mono

Mono

Unable to get decent sight of the band, I make my way to the back, where the sound is magnificent. I can’t see anything other than smoke and strobes, but it’s ok: Mono aren’t a band to watch, even with the addition of vocals to their arsenal: they’re a band to get lot in. and that, I do. I find myself slowly drifting in the enormity of the experience: the sound, the atmosphere, the space, all contrive to create an immersive experience.

7th September – Pelagic Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The absence of a question mark renders the album’s title a statement rather than a question. But there are no questions about Årabrot: 17 years and a substantial catalogue into their career, the Norwegian noise-rock act are still noisy, challenging, and kicking ass. But according to the blurb accompanying the release, ‘there is more than noise rock to Årabrot’s formula. “I’m interested in feelings, either the very silent or the extremely noisy”, band leader Kjetil Nernes comments. “I don’t care about what’s in between, the middle of the road isn’t my thing. The bible fits really well with that. I’m using it thematically all of the time.”

But mostly it’s noisy, and that’s a good thing. That said, Who Do You Love is very much an album of extremes – which is only fitting of a record that references transgressive French poet Comte de Lautréamont in its opening song, which crashes in with a heavy psych-hued riff – but the guitars are dominant and angular throughout. It’s loud, and it’s insistent. The guitars are choppy, the vocals whooping, sneery, and bathed in reverb and flange. It’s kinda punky, but equally kinda post punk, and kinda no-wave noisy.

With chunky, punky riffs carved out against solid rhythms that are by turn loping, square and stop/start, plus shouty vocals throughout the course of the album – ‘Warning’ is exemplary: Who Do You Love brings the attack in spadesful – but then again, it’s an album with textures, layers. ‘Sons and Daughters’ is a spacious country / shoegaze hybrid that’s both beautiful and captivating.

‘Pygmalion’ marks a real shift, it’s ethereal humming drones fittering like butterflies, while the sinewy ‘Simmerman’ is different again, a howling, roaring country rock stomp replete with anguished vocals that run ragged and pull Biblical anguish over devils and pain from the depths. It’s bold, theatrical, immense, but more importantly, it’s got a gut pull that’s emotionally engaging in its snarling delivery. Elsewhere ‘Look Daggers’ plunges deeper and darker still, meshing together the heavy grey nihilism and insistent throb of Killing Joke with a thicker, more metal delivery and hints of latter-day Swans in its insistent, throbbing groove that’s demolished in a roaring rage. ‘A Sacrifice’ begin with a heavy trudge, and the stop/start riffage, coupled with the blank monotone vocals – heavily treated – call to mind Foetus – before the buzzsaw riff breaks in after a couple of minutes.

Closer ‘Uniform of a Killer’ is all about the ebb and flow, the surge and fall, the climax and drop, not to mention all the drama. It again calls to mind later-day Swans, as well as pacing in hints of Bauhaus and myriad others, but compresses 15-minute builds to a minute or so, the track lasting only six and a half minutes. Never mind the length, check the density! ‘Uniform of a Killer’ certainly packs the density, and the intensity, too.

Who Do You Love is a BIG album. Not so much in duration (although it’s big enough) but in every other sense. It has depth, it has range. It has force. It has intensity, and it has tunes. Really, you couldn’t ask for more.

AA

Årabrot – Who Do You Love

Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

AA

954503

Neurot Recordings – 20th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Mass VI may have six tracks listed, but effectively, it only has four full movements, with a brace of brief interludes breaking up the blasting, blistering intensity. And what intensity. Five years on from Mass V and Amenra have not softened their sound one iota.

The ten-minute ‘Children of the Eye’ makes for a slow-building opener: there’s a full minute of silence before a quiet, gentle intro of chiming guitars rips into a screaming vortex of noise that channels a spiral straight into the depths of a world far below the earth. The delicate, reflective mid-section offers much-needed reprieve, albeit temporarily, before the deluge of guitars bring a return to the tempestuous anguish. No doubt, the Neurosis comparisons stand as obvious, and it’s not hard to make the connection as to why Amenra have made their way to the Neurot label. But the howling, barking vocal derangement is altogether more frenzied and tortured to the point that borders on the inhuman. It’s the sound of a voice detached from the world and detached from hope, desperately screaming into a sonic vortex which swirls as an emblem for the pain that is existence.

‘Plus Pres de Troi’ brings a heavy, dolorous trudge and a sinewy, organic guitar sound. The thick guitars grate in an epic Sunn O))) -like drone. Gradually unfurling, transitioning between the aural equivalent of delicate fronds to boughs torn asunder by hurricane-force blasts.

It’s on ‘A Solitary Reign’ that Amenra really show both their depth and range. Epic doesn’t come close: yes, it’s post-rock, post-metal, and it’s raging, brutal shoegaze with an emotional dimension that’s deeply affecting in the way that only music can be. There are no words to fully articulate such resonance and the levels sound and voice can reach into the soul and affect the mind. As a reviewer, there’s a real sense of impotence when faced with something like this. It’s so much easier to write either objectively or to dissect technical issues, or to otherwise slate in the most violent terms possible something that’s inherently shit or lacking in whatever, way. But how does one articulate music that turns the innards to liquid and melts the brain? What do you say about something that leaves you feeling numb, incapable of movement, and utterly overawed? When the last thing you want to do is analyse, and instead sit back and let the experience touch every corner of your innermost being, how do you reconcile the role of fan and critic? You give yourself over to the music of course, and accept that this is bigger than you.

Mass VI is bigger than your small world, your little life. Mass VI reaches deep into the heart of the human condition through the medium of sound. The fact that the lyrics are impenetrable and inaudible for the most part only heightens the experience: it’s the language of sound which conveys so much and means everything.

The eleven-minute closer, ‘Diaken’, combines all of the elements of drone / doom / post-metal / post rock in a thunderous and sprawling behemoth of a sonic journey to create something that’s both cerebral and physical: the crushing riffs played on obliterative guitars contrast with the delicate, detailed breaks to breathtaking effect.

Despite its duration, Mass VI feels remarkably concise, largely on account of just how focused it is. There’s no waste, no packing, no flab: everything about the album is centred around distilling every sound into creating optimum power, and the result is stunning.

AAA

NR108_Amenra_cover

Montreal three-piece BIG|BRAVE  share an official video for ‘Sound’, a brand new track from their forthcoming third album, Ardor, due out September 15th via Southern Lord.  The trio also share headline tour dates in support of the album, with Jessica Moss (who features on the album) performing in support on some dates.

‘Sound’ speaks volumes regarding what’s to come in BIG|BRAVE’s next endeavor; swirling static, booming guitars, powerful drums—all the hallmarks that have made them one of experimental rock’s most exciting acts today.  With just three songs that clock in for a 40-minute-long LP, BIG|BRAVE have adopted a nearly unbearable level of urgency and intensity that weaves throughout Ardor.

Check out ‘Sound’ here (tour dates below):

TOUR DATES (SO FAR):

Sat 21/10 – UK, Brighton – Sticky´s Mike Frog**

Sun 22/10 – UK, Manchester – Star and Garter**

Mon 23/10 – UK, London – Underworld**

Tue 24/10 – FRA, Lille – Le Biplan

Wen 25/10 – FRA, Rennes – Barhic**

Thur 26/10 – FRA, Nantes – Soy Festival**

Fri 27/10 – FRA, Rouen – 3 Pieces

Tues 07/11 – FRA, Lyon – Sonic

Wed 08/11 – BE, Antwerp – Autumn Falls @ Het Bos

Thur 09/11 – NL, Utrecht – Le Guess Who?

Mon 13/11 – DE, Oldenburg – MTS

Tues 14/11 – DE, Mannheim – Kurzbar

Fri 17/11 – DE, Dresden – Scheune

**with Jessica Moss

(Further Dates to be confirmed soon)

Image result for big brave sound