Review Summary: timelessly subdued
The title Leaving None But Small Birds
implies near-total emptiness, albeit a delicate, precious sense of void. It’s not unrepresentative of the music on the record, while simultaneously being almost everything one wouldn’t expect from a collaboration between two sludgepostdrone-giants. Instead of Big|Brave and The Body draining all their usual intensities into the work, the album itself feels drained, with the bands finding an ominous sense of life in the voices of those who can’t speak.
‘Blackest Crow’ introduces Leaving None…
on a wonderfully monotonous note, setting the record’s earthy folk tones from its very first seconds. Embracing hypnotising acoustic patterns and chilly violins, the song puts Robin Wattie’s vocals at the forefront. Where Big|Brave’s frontwoman tends to exist in the shadows of her own band’s metallic onslaught and occasionally howling through the static, she masterfully assumes the spotlight in this new sonic landscape. Her voice is as demanding as it feels entirely timeless, perfectly complementing the instrumentals and configuring the record’s eerily inviting aura. ‘Once I Had A Sweetheart’, the album’s mesmerising centerpiece, feels particularly far removed from colour and light. Reframing feedback-ridden, droning guitars in a solemn, fully unaided context, the song appears entirely detached from anything human. As Wattie’s voice draws closer, seemingly begging for life while refusing to give in to desperation, the track’s concluding lyrics feel like an appropriate summation: “The rest of my life I’ll venture towards you / She’s gone and left me
All of Leaving None…
’s lyrics are borrowed, reframed and repurposed: having collected phrases, characters and stories from traditional hymns, Wattie delivers unique takes on long-forgotten tales. Rather than feeling like outsiders merely recycling folklore, the bands’ meticulous approach to songwriting immerses each moment in the stories. ‘Hard Times’, a seven-minute epic detailing the misery of labourers in an old mill, brings its imagery to life through Wattie’s fracturedly clear voice and an intense focus on repeated patterns. Its second half merely consists of the words “It’s hard times in this old mill
” repeating themselves, before static eventually reduces it to nothing but that: white noise. The voices subdued yet again, the stories of the marginalised left to fade once more: ‘Hard Times’ is a rewarding listen, not a pleasant one.
As such, Big|Brave and The Body’s unique styles find a comfortable home in folk music. Rather than directing sonic onslaughts towards anyone willing to listen, the bands concentrate their darkness towards delivering tales of those who wouldn’t be able to tell them in this way. Closer ‘Babes in the Woods’ feels like an appropriate conclusion to Leaving None…
, draining its gothic-tinged hums into a fully instrumental drone, before the static cuts for one final, a cappella hymn: “And all night long the branches among / They mourned as they whistled / And this was their song
”. This album may not be Big|Brave and The Body’s song
, it most definitely is their project, propelled by the hushed and buried.