Very rarely these days does a band enter our lives with the ability to speak to every corner of the heart. Brooklyn trio Big Bliss to navigate the beauties and pains of the human experience on their new LP, At Middle Distance, being released 9/28 by Exit Stencil Records. Having come together in late 2015, Big Bliss is the beautifully ruminating post-punk brainchild of brothers Tim and Cory Race. The brothers, having been split early on, each with a separate parent, had never played together over a cumulative 25 years of music, until both moved to New York from the Midwest. Years into living blocks from each other, they formed the band with friend and collaborator Wallace May, initially as a casual recording project. However, after the 2016 release of their debut EP Keep Near (Exit Stencil Records), motives and motivations shifted, and it became pretty difficult not to see the name Big Bliss on a show bill, especially at the remaining DIY spaces in NYC. Tireless efforts and undeniable passion on and off the stage landed the band on FIVE tours, and earned them the title of Oh My Rockness’ Hardest Working Band of 2017.
Now, At Middle Distance marks a new, unprecedented milestone for the band. Recorded and mixed at Tony Maimone’s (Pere Ubu) Studio G and Thump Recordings in Brooklyn, producer Jeff Berner (Psychic TV) evokes the tonal clarity and emotive noise that constitutes Big Bliss’ special brand of dark-tinged melodic euphoria. Songs successively ebb and flow in tempo and mania, alternating the spotlight on each player. Cory Race’s fervent drumming is simultaneously unwavering and creative, as May’s fluid, leading bass lines offer clarity and resolve in every hook. Tim Race’s ethereal guitar shimmers like spurts of heat lightning during summer’s thick humidity, and the thundering rhythm section only compliments its brilliance. Their instruments alone are enough to fill any room, no matter the size. Tim’s effectual and guttural vocals can either hover above the mix, or swoop through it, giving an actual tangibility to this “feelings” thing on which you can’t quite put your finger.
Lyrically, it is a challenge to Race’s notions of identity (Duplicate), a hidden history of addiction (RTK), and in the record’s opening salvo, “Constants,” the destruction left in the wake of a twenty-something person chasing “constant, eternal bliss,” and alienating the ones they love. He asks how we cope with events that shift our concepts of ourselves, like the death of an alcoholic uncle (Richard Race), or the end of a devoted companionship (High Ideal). He’s both looking inward and reaching out, hoping to find solid ground somewhere in between, a place from which he can be a better friend, a better lover, a place from where he can meet you.
At Middle Distance speaks in urgent tongues, desperate to convey unknowable longing, like every great post-punk artist who came before. Moments of joy, moments of unspeakable sadness, moments of rage, all rub shoulders through these songs, and by the record’s end, you’ve undoubtedly run the gauntlet.