Early news about Leaving None but Small Birds indicated that living-in-clip duo The Body and feedback sculptors BIG|BRAVE would be looking towards folk music as inspiration for their collaborative album. At the time this felt expectedly bold, which is to say not exactly preordained nor a surprise westerly sunrise, but precisely the kind of sharp aperture such an alliance would require so as to move beyond simply double the amount of distortion pedals.
The Body in particular has been leading the team-up spirit, with albums in collaboration with fellow metal travellers like Thou and Full of Hell as well as multi-instrumental producer The Haxan Cloak. They’ve been pushing their sound without necessarily letting up on the gas, nosing about every corner that a maxed signal chain and horrified vocals can contain, with profound results for those curious and patient enough to ride along. BIG|BRAVE are no slouches either, twisting amp noise into synth waves around long march drumming. This trio has been folding space and transliterating starlight into massive chords for a few years now, clearly scoping a similar wavelength as The Body in their own right.
Coming together, The Body and BIG|BRAVE torn down their own houses to build back from their shared beams, and in doing so have locked into a sound distinctly yet equally divine as their independent work. Maybe not sound so much, as there’s less emphasis on pushing gain here, but in that structure—a bed of picked riffs, a horse-drawn tempo, weatherbeaten lyrics sung a non-academic mastery. It’s the same bedrock of Americana that Lungfish used, as the joke goes, for their “single” song. A cheeky falsehood of course, Lungfish spun universes through transcendentally tidal melodies, coming in and out in support of Daniel Higgs’s travelling shaman elocutions.
All rock music roots down to the traditionals though, a few basic structures learned, mastered, broken, twisted, reformed, but ultimately in service of the greater transmission of spirit and feeling. We see it in Higgs’s post-Lungfish banjo hymns and astral poetry, and it’s how The Body and BIG|BRAVE have been able to address the void in their earlier work.
With Leaving None but the Small Birds these bands are planting licks and chords in order to let them germinate and lift in the same loamy and longtime ritual, through the blues and bluegrass, Guthrie and Dolly, Robert Johnson and Big Mama Thornton, the Bible and the Iliad. As each song blooms they tell a seemingly simple tale, hatched with shadows we’ve seen, and before we know it the petals have unfurled and our own burdens lightened. This is what The Body and BIG|BRAVE always done, and how music has always served us, but now it’s more sunkissed than ever.
// Levi Rubeck is a is a critic and poet currently living in the Boston area. Check his links at levirubeck.com