Nature Morte

(Thrill Jockey)


In recent years, Montreal noise group BIG|BRAVE have detoured from their usual sonic density, trading maximalism for fragility. 2021’s Leaving None But Small Birds, a collaboration with sludgy doomers The Body, was an altogether more muted exploration of their sound, with naturalistic textures and folk motifs producing a record full of new potential. On Nature Morte, BIG|BRAVE return to the boldness of their previous work, but they’ve clearly learned from their recent experiments in space and genre.

Taking its title from the French term for still life paintings, translating literally as ‘dead nature’, this record sees the trio craft musical allegories that conjure atmospheres of tumult, decay, and strife. Nimble brushstrokes of brutality are placed alongside moments of real beauty, capturing the dichotomy of nature – tough yet exhilarating, fleeting yet permanent, unforgiving but benevolent. The anarchic distortions of ‘My Hope Renders Me A Fool’ crash onto the ears like waves onto a jagged coastline, whilst tracks like ‘Carvers, Farriers and Knaves’ evoke ongoing skirmish with slow-marching kick drums and battle-cry vocals similar to those on ‘The Fable of Subjugation’, whose gentle guitar drones and vocal serenity eventually surrender to ear-splitting chaos.

Across these six tracks, BIG|BRAVE prove they remain brutish in their raw power, but there is delicacy here too. Dragooning experimentalism and heaviness remain but the beefed-up songcraft, musicality and splendour of this record rewards repeat listening. This is a band who are reaching new heights.