By: Dylan Schink

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Released on October 18, 2015 via Southern Lord

On first listen it’s easy to label Au De La a throwback to Glenn Branca and Swans’ early work: it’s simple, jarring and unfriendly. The whole album feels like it’s about to spin out of control at any moment as Scout Niblett-esque vocals that sound on the very edge of hysterics cut through the noise. The result is an explosive and terrifying listening experience, but that’s far from the whole story.

Swans’ Filth and Cop are brutal, monstrous albums, that was the goal, and they succeeded. Au De La is so much more than that, thought it took me several listens to realise it. While the veneer of the album is a punishing fury, beneath that there’s a vast amount of emotional depth. When the barking, shrieking vocals finally start to become intelligible, fear and sadness become apparent, and suddenly the monster that is Au De La becomes a far more nuanced and complex album.

Opening with ‘On The By And By And Thereon’, which is the most obviously reminiscent of early Swans’ slow, heavy and dragging sound, it’s clear that this isn’t just a soundalike album; Big Brave have a very distinct sound of their own, with a lush, full spectrum of noise. The album feels decidedly modern while borrowing so much from no-wave.

‘(re)Collection Part II’ closes the album and is the closest thing to a thesis statement the album has, featuring both the softest segments of the album and the most violent. It’s sad but oddly hopeful, with the refrain “I can see your light even though it’s so fucking dark in here”, sung as a duet in an imperfect and fragile harmony, it’s where the emotional core of the album really becomes apparent.

Nothing about the album is easy, from the first, punishing listen to the slow realisation that there’s so much here to comb through, though it’s endlessly rewarding and even though I’ve listened to it dozens of times, I’m still discovering new depths. It’s difficult to articulate the experience of listening to Au De La, so I won’t try. English, as a language, is ill equipped to describe an experience so primal, complex and crushing.

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