There’s defintely sometihng unexpected about the collaborative album between The Body and BIG | Brave. With both bands’ feet in the experimental and metal worlds, splitting their time between Thrill Jockey and Southern Lord respectively, I’d almost kind of put this one on the backburner just out of a feeling that overwhelming heaviness was a hue I couldn’t absorb right about now. But, naturally, as the challenge was thrown between bands to escape their aesthetics, the combination of Portland noise and Montreal drone-dry metal has resulted in an album of roots/Appalachain-indebed folk. Once inside the environs of the album the bands’ respective reputations fracture and furrow, and in the process Leaving None But Small Birds begins to take shape. With a core of American, Canadian, and UK folk touchstones as a bedrock the collective body of players constantly reshuffles the notions of desolation, playing the folk card straight at first, but as the album wears on, they let a corrosive wave of amplifier soot begin to blacken the soul of the song.
They open the album with the gente carousel curl of “Blackest Crow,” brandishing their folk credentials in earnest, but by the time that “Hard Times” hits the speakers the ominous thrum that’s begun to build takes hold, dragging the song down into the catacombs beneath the ol’ church for a bit of biblical anger and bile that can’t rightly find its footing in the sanctuary. It’s the kind of song that shuns the sunlight on principle, challenging the foothills to release their wraiths into the night air. Robin Wattle’s vocals provide a tiller in tempest, and she sets the tone over the course of the album. Rising with the urgency of the underlying storm, her beacon is eventually consumed by the caustic hunger of the band’s gothic growl. Just as label contemporaries like Earth (with Hex) or Evan Caminiti have recast the wide open West, The Body and Big | Brave tranform Appalachia into something more sinister. As the mud rises around them and the riverbed begins to boil the band picks out an old time exorcism hoping to cast out the serpent before it consumes them.
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