Big|Brave are one of the most unique and intriguing bands making music with loud guitars in the world today. That’s just an inarguable fact as far as I’m concerned. And with Ardor they’ve taken another step towards greatness.
Matt Finney was off-grid for a while before last years excellent record with Siavash Amini but seems to back in force with a barrage of releases with a menagerie of different collaborators. This one, with his old sparring partner Heinali, tells the story of that hiatus in typically unflinching fashion.
To celebrate their first album in 5 years (check out my review here) I’ve tried to condense Grails’ work into 10 a mere tracks. Tricky stuff, though Spotify have made it easier by not having Take Refuge in Clean Living (check the video below for a taste of that), Black Tar Prophecies 1-3 or Interpretations Of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around The World available. Needless to say then that this is an incomplete primer; but it does just about trace the line from their early Dirty Three-esque sonic wanderings through their voyages into psychedelia, prog, soundtrack composers, krautrock and a hundred other musical hinterlands all the way to latest release Chalice Hymnal, the sound of a set of musicians playing and composing with complete freedom.
They’ve been a frequently misunderstood band over the years (hell, I’m not entirely sure I’ve truly got a handle on them) due to the scope of their ambition and, perhaps, the narrowing of ambitions of their supposed contemporaries. This selection won’t teach you all there is to know about their ways, but I hope it makes for a welcoming introduction to their world.
Grails have been a favourite band of mine for a long while now. They were introduced to me as a post-rock/post-metal band sometime around a decade ago, around the time that Burning Off Impurities was released, but I quickly discovered they were far much more than genre-happy mooks. Attempts to label them so neatly fall desperately short – they collect and shed influences as it suits them, ever creating their own weather. Evocative of a whole heap of sounds and musical periods at once Chalice Hymnal is a trip down a whole new set of rabbitholes, a tough record to digest and a difficult one to articulate opinion on. I’ve no idea if I’ve done it justice or not.
Portuguese psych rock masters Black Bombaim teaming up with veteran free jazz nomad Peter Brötzmann for a live recorded freak out? Yes. Yes I will have some of that.
I first started this blog for different purposes to the catch-all scribblings on Music and Gaming it became. It was primarily for my use only, essentially as a Happy Place for my sad self to return to to find solace in a big list of things I loved. It was an ongoing series of reminders that the world wasn’t entirely a festering nightmare of disappointment. Eventually it convinced me that writing about this stuff was really good for my mental health in and of itself. And so: here we are.
I deleted most of those Let me tell you why I love.. posts apart from the Dark Souls one, which I was quite fond of. One of the lost posts was a love letter to Absence, Dälek’s terrifying 2005 album, a record that production-wise sounds like a city under siege from monolithic metallic monsters. There’s nothing quite like it: ‘Apocalyptic’ is an overused adjective in music criticism, and one that has rarely been as apt as when applied to Absence. It’s something I have to brace myself whenever I put my headphones on to get dragged into it’s hellish world.
They released the excellent Abandoned Language after that, and finally the slightly lackluster Gutter Tactics before disappearing into the ether. So I was a bit nervous when Dälek announced they’d be back after a 5 year lay-off, especially as they’d be creating without producer Oktopus. Without the man who created that sound, what would they have to offer?
Spoiler: quite a lot, actually.