Keys gently shimmer; percussion soon rolls in and woodwind floats around. A slight cymbal strike, more instrumentation comes in and “Tide/Microscopic” becomes this cinematic, lively and gentle thing. It’s a good taste of things to come.
The energy dissipates and Big Dead move into a state of quietude. Vocals find their way in, almost wafting off the instrumentation. The words they use are close but vague, almost as though they are suggestive blurs. They move through a space the group could completely consume, but wisely don’t.
Eventually the words gain clarity; they coast along the sounds as everything starts to build. Big Dead reach upward and outward and allow themselves grow through intensity. Even as “Tide/Microscopic” continues unfurling it remains peaceful, and rather going for an explosion at the end all the build suddenly stops just before the final word sung.
“Mary”, Former Self‘s midpoint, continues the flow with an airier feel. The percussion flutters and flickers whilst sounds drift upon its current. The vocals follow in a similar vein; they seem less anchored, but they still follow closely.
Gradually the song shifts whilst retaining a sense of familiarity; The rhythm remains deft whilst the instrumentation grows more textural and vivid. All is in unison and traveling well, and all gradually build to a calming climax. Once there Big Dead sound focused and sharp and ride out the moment to its natural conclusion. It’s something that feels massively small, and it’s rather pretty.
Former Self‘s “Former Self” is probably its most active song. It’s also probably its most “song-like”, and the least with a sense of atmosphere and the cinematic. Maybe that’s due to how grounded its instrumentation feels. It still inhabits the same world as the prior-two songs, but the percussion sounds much firmer, as though it is anchoring everything. The other instruments still drift but they’re less flowing, so to speak. It’s as though Big Dead are going for a walk rather than daydreaming or floating away through idyllic scenery.
The vocals feature mainly in the song’s first half where they move alongside the instrumentation, though with a slightly different step. Through their deceptive drawl they carry a sense of space; there’s room for everything to do what it needs. The vocals also form a sense of continuation with the instruments. They feel almost one and the same – at least thematically – and meld into each other quite well.
Eventually “Former Self” sees Big Dead expand outward once more and start bringing the EP to its end. A brief pause for the vocals to resume and then the group go massive. Sounds roar and congeal into a beautiful release of expression; There’s a sense of sadness to it, but it’s also uplifting. It’s conclusive and cathartic, and furthers the song without diminishing its start.
Former Self feels relaxed whilst remaining tight and lively; It’s clear that Big Dead put a lot of care into how everything works together. Sounds congeal and change, and vocals find a place that doesn’t take away from the instrumentation. The result is a wonderful tapestry of sound that is as dynamic and expressive as necessary.
Former Self is available here.