Big|Brave at Soup ManchesterSupport: Aicher
May 9, 2023 at Soup Manchester
Promoter: Grey Latern
Even from someone who’s spent a lot of time in dingy venues, Soup Manchester is a particularly divey dive bar; everything is painted black and there seems to be a constant dry-ice-type fog inside. I couldn’t find any information on the support, it turns out to be Aicher (aka, Liam Williams from My Disco). As we stood at the back of the venue, the aforementioned Liam wandered over to the sound engineer and politely asked them if they were ready to start and wandered back over to the stage.
What came next is difficult to describe. He had a bass, a gear case that potentially contained a laptop and a mixing disk. Barely pereptible from behind a smoky stage a wave of feedback emerged and he started the process of making what can probably be called a soundscape. The venue was absolutely shaking, he darted between his various tools, occasionally leaving the bass on a nearby PA speaker and created this maelstrom of noise. At one point the main throng of noise fell away to something that I can only describe as the resonant frequency of the bad part of my brain, it genuinely made me feel a bit odd. If I had to put it into words it’s like the soundtrack to some kind of post-apocalyptic industrial hellscape. It was certainly an experience.
After everyone had some time to process the previous show, without much ceremony Big|Brave ventured onto the small, very smoky stage. What I had heard on record had not quite prepared me for their live show. Opening with ‘carvers, farriers and knaves’ the drums hit you square in the chest; Mathieu’s guitar is at ‘gain set to max’, on the edge of feedback, and Robin’s vocals pierce through it all. Liam’s bass adds a nice low end to the whole thing and really makes it more cohesive.
The band runs straight into the heavy opening to ‘the one who bornes a weary load’; having listened to Nature Morte quite a few times I wasn’t expecting the sheer visceral experience of the music live. You feel the band as well as listen to them. It is not so much that they are turned up a notch, it’s like they are on a different plane. Robin’s vocals, vulnerable and powerful at the same time, compete for airspace with the noise. They can switch between full chaos to almost silence in a split second. ‘my hope renders me a fool’ is a bit more sedate, all things being relative, of course. It’s a wonderful, noisy track drenched in feedback.
‘the fable of subjugation’ has a melodic start, Robin’s vocals are almost folky, and the song gently builds with fuzz-drenched guitar building in the background; a few minutes in the drums join in, and as the intensity increase the vocals rise to match from the previously silky smooth to edge of a scream. Looking around the venue, most people just seem to be absorbed by the sound; the unpredictable nature precludes usual head-nodding and everyone is just letting it wash over them.
I just realise that at this point none of the band has uttered a word, and have just stayed hidden on the smoke filled stage. ‘a parable of the trusting’ has a relatively (and I do mean relative) soft start: fuzzy guitar and vocals, Liam using a violin bow to create the world’s dirtiest cello sound; the lack of percussion in the majority of the track adds to the odd and slightly edgy feel to it; and in the last few minutes, when the drums come back at full force, it is a genuine shock!
They finished their set with ‘the ten of swords’, a nice, gentle, melodic end acting as an antidote to the fierce, noisy set we all enjoyed.
Big|Brave played a show that took their latest album (which they played in full) to a different level. Earth shatteringly heavy at times, with lovely, textured sounds at others, the sheer volume and dynamics the band command take their live show to another dimension. At the end of a long European tour you’d forgive the trio for being a bit stale, but they were nothing of the sort. Robin spoke briefly at the end of the performance and sounded like they were all genuinely pleased that people turned up to their shows. Trust me, the pleasure is all ours.