Big|Brave Credit: Rachel Cheng

Since forming in 2012, Montreal’s Big|Brave have strived to balance volume with silence, harshness with beauty, and stoic minimalism with full-on intensity, using tools such as space, breathlike rhythms, and a thundering low end that only seems more cavernous next to the clear, striking alto voice of singer-guitarist Robin Wattie. Each of the experimental trio’s four albums has been better than the one before, and the recent full-length A Gaze Among Them cements their transformation from band on the rise to heavy-music essential. Dramatic shapes and shifting moods have long been core to Big|Brave’s sound, but up till now they’ve preferred esoteric lyrical themes, with Wattie intentionally singing without much enunciation to give the listener more space for interpretation. A Gaze Among Them takes a more direct approach, addressing interpersonal and social power dynamics. Anchored by a throbbing drumbeat, “Holding Pattern” confronts the deeply ingrained racism and cultural supremacy that whitewashes atrocities and mass violence and even drives self-proclaimed allies to steer the focus to the needs and feelings of white people. “Sibling” is an intimate exploration of how two people can be made to feel alienated from each other even while facing similar obstacles: “How strange it was, so strange / What we each needed to be / What we each were made to believe / What we each chose to see,” Wattie sings over a seismic guitar rhythm. No matter how cerebral things get, though, Big|Brave’s music hits first and foremost through the ears and the soul, and the band match even their most agonizing builds with shimmering moments of relief.   v