One of the heavier bands of the Montreal scene, Big|Brave aims to find the balance between post-rock, drone soundscapes, and the heavier interpretation of doom. This investigation started in 2014, with the band’s debut record, Feral Verdure, and was followed just a year later with Au De La. The difference between the two albums was noticeable, as Au De La found the band leaving behind its standard rock forms for long-form compositions on tracks like “Let Us Rest Our Dead Anon” and “Tussles”. By extending the length of the tracks, Big ‡ Brave allocated more time in experimentation with grooves and hammering repetitions, bringing forth a succinct stream of consciousness to the table. Their latest record, Ardor, dives further into this mentality, with the number of tracks being further minimized — just three presented here — and the duration maximized (the shortest track is 11 minutes long).
The sound of the album is thick and impressive, with the feedback exploited in a number of different ways to produce circling soundscapes and establish a powerful ambiance. That is the strong suit of Big ‡ Brave; the different morphings of the drones and the creation of abstract configurations of feedback are not only impressive, but they flow into each other in an uncanny fashion to build a cohesive progression for the music. That is a significant treat when a band dwells into a minimalistic area, relying on the slow drumming and pulsing feedback to paint the scenery.
Some of the perks of being part of such an active and creative scene, in the likes of the Montreal post-rock movement, is the available recording spaces, engineers, and artists with which one can collaborate. Recorded at the legendary Hotel2Tango studio and produced by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (of Jerusalem in My Heart), Ardor features a more pristine sound compared to the debut and Au De La, which was recorded and mixed by Efrim Menuck (of Godspeed You! Black Emperor). Moving further away from the raw sound, Moumneh is capable of binding distortion and weight with clarity, retaining a very fine balance between the two.
It is this outlook towards distortion (plus the slow unfolding of the tracks) that provide Ardor with a primal attitude. “Sound” might be introduced with a slow groove, but there is something distinctly animalistic about it. Despite this return to basics, there is an alluring quality about the simplicity in which the tracks are laid out, and it is very interesting that there is something precious and elegant beneath the rumble. “Borer”, for instance, appears with a monolithic quality that is astounding, and yet there lies something more intricate and personal under the surface.
Big ‡ Brave does not rely just on the weight and primal instinct, nor does it stay into minimalistic modes for the sake of being minimal. There is a majestic dimension running through the music that shines brilliantly when the band steps away from the abstract interpretation of rock music. It feels as if Big|Brave is stretching the horizon, traveling beyond the earthy qualities of rock and into something more emotional. It is that serene quality that builds the necessary continuum between heavy riffs and emotive sceneries. The grand and devastating start of “Borer” is a contrast to the underlying majesty running through parts of “Lull”, which is further enhanced by Jessica Moss’ violin.
Ardor is a record that moves between different modes with adequate fluency. Rock forms are tampered with and experimented upon, drone influences produce a plethora of feedback qualities, and the ambient passages construct bridges between these different sides of Big|Brave. This chapter in the band’s discography depicts a further step in its evolution. Big|Brave aims higher, which the band’s progress thus far details, and is slowly becoming the connective tissue between the post-rock scene and the drone-rock realm. It is a daring task, and even though there is still a lot of ground to cover, it feels like the band is on the right path.