A Gaze Among Them, the new album from Montreal band BIG|BRAVE, is an experiment in repetition. There is no real chord progression in the five songs, no traditional structure one can discern. Yet, through the feedback and distortion, a fierce sort of beauty emerges.
So atmospheric it should change the weather, A Gaze Among Them revels in its own variations. Songs wrap themselves around a single chord shape. Through minimal guitar solo work, the songs contort into majors and minors. Time signatures change without warning. Contrabass provides an uneasy foundation. High and clear above the maelstrom and sustain of the instruments, Robin Wattie’s voice cuts through with quavering ferocity, leaping and lilting at the ends of phrases. The entire album sounds darkly sacred, as if it were recorded in a deconsecrated cathedral. It is music for the shambling damned.
Since all the songs are created similarly, with that one note genesis, it’s difficult to choose a favorite track. That’s not to say that A Gaze Among Them suffers from sameness. Even though repetition is an overarching theme on the album, each piece has its own heart, with different aspects standing out. However, it feels like an album one should always listen to all the way through without skipping about. The overall effect is hypnotic.
A Gaze Among Them isn’t art rock or noise. BIG|BRAVE seems to have pulled their music from a different dimension. There isn’t a convenient label for it. When the music takes off, like in the middle of the first track, “Muted Shifting of Space,” it sounds like black flowers blooming or fireworks from the next town over. There is an inexorable quality to this album. These songs are not content to exist in the background. They stalk you, and there’s a strange comfort in that.
A Gaze Among Them is music for dim rooms. The album evokes visions of hooded cloaks and mist that won’t fade into the ground. And yet, for all that, there’s a tremendous sense of space to the music. One can almost sense the height between Wattie’s voice and the oppressive low rumbling of Mathieu Ball’s guitar and Loel Campbell’s drums.
It is not for the impatient, nor is it what one would consider “accessible.” But BIG|BRAVE has created a gorgeously overwhelming, overdriven treasure with A Gaze Among Them. Take a listen and let the aural claustrophobia leave you breathless.
A Gaze Among Them is available via Southern Lord through purveyors of fine music everywhere.