Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 2nd, 2023  

Big Thief



May 21, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On Big Thief’s rapturous and microcosmic third album, U.F.O.F., the band find themselves vibrating through the grand designs of nature, looking to the stars and pondering the hidden connections that envelop us all. Their sound has evolved, slowly incorporating more textures and various voices, but instead of trafficking in a predictable grandiosity that involves ever bigger spaces and more gargantuan breaks, the band has flipped the script and turned the focus inwards, reflecting on the unfathomable that pervades our every moment and delivering a performance of masterfully honed restraint that perfectly encapsulates their invitation to discover the vast and alien within the seemingly familiar.

From the moment the album begins with opener “Contact” we are sucked into a world that seems to submerge us rather than project us outwards. Layers of ambience and vocals condense around a hypnotically creeping pulse, giving enough space for the whispers to carry and the weight of the words to settle like humidity on your skin. This album is not meant to sound like a triumph, the sound of conquering nature and subduing it to personal devices. Instead, the vast scope of the album reveals itself in submergence and diffusion, the sound of humility before the might of nature’s forces. Scrambled samples stir in the backdrop of single and title track “UFOF,” giving the impression of going so far into the forest that the insects that stitch across the branches are the aliens, and the feeling that your own home on closest inspection reveals the most extraterrestrial of beings. The elliptical sounds of fingerpicked guitars and rolling drums resound with subtle variance and imitate the motions of the planets, anchoring us with their impressive gravity.

Singer and lyricist Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics deal heavily with reflections and transformations. Two of the most frequently occurring images in the album are water and mirrors, two sources of perpetual wonder and questioning. As in previous work, Lenker peoples her worlds with characters whose names are familiar (Caroline, Betsy, Jenni), but whose place in the songs always gives them a unique air of detachment, evoking both the pleasure of recognition and the identification of loss. Lenker renders the inside world, our psychological traps, according to the logic of the outside world where predators and prey predominate, (“Still caught in the jaw of confusion”). The unity of internal and external worlds is not dealt with as simply a metaphysical principle that exists in the abstract, but as a dense and palpable aspect of our daily lives. The album ends with the hum of insects as imagined by synthesizers, sweeping us into a futuristic past where growth and disintegration are equal and opposite forces. The balance of nature achieved. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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