The Besnard Lakes
Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Apr 03, 2013 Issue #45 - Winter 2013 - Phoenix
The Besnard Lakes were the Dark Horse in 2007, the Roaring Night in 2010, and in 2013 have decided to eschew declaring themselves anything in an album title, going this time for something more... opaque. That cryptic title is a hint at the proceedings, which see the band once again marrying rapturous dreamscapes with hard-to-crack, almost aloof structures and intent. A moving target.
There are contradictions. Jace Lasek and crew seem to be deeper adrift in the atmospherics, soaring ever further into the 4AD/Creation land of dream-pop or shoegaze. This is lush, deeply psychedelic music. But its creators aren't on any kind of narcotic autopilot—they're squarely in their heads with their eyes (and ears) on the craft. Each element-each tiny nuance, even—feels very deliberate: the long, syncopated riffs, the extra bars, the meticulous song structures. Every epic build is delivered consciously, aided by detailed production and dramatically dense arrangements (harpists and strings and Spencer Krug added to the mix here).
"And Her Eyes Were Painted Gold" is an early standout, rolling along on ride cymbals and a gently syncopated bass line under monstrous synth pads, closing up with a waltz among the clouds. "People of the Sticks" gets things moving (as much as they ever do), with Olga Goreas' vocals snaking around and into an explosive chorus, trapped in Lasek's trademark wide-panned pile o' guitars. "The Specter" earns its name with a droned-out fuzz solo à la vintage Eno, and "At Midnight" features Lasek and Goreas trading back and forth on vocal duties while the guitars churn more and more violently. On the chorus, Lasek beckons "close your eyes," which might serve as a simple three-word instruction manual for the entire Besnard Lakes catalog.
One wonders: what is this stuff? That is, aside from the reviewer formulas (MBV + Beach Boys + David Lynch; Cocteau Twins—a Twin + more Fender Twins, etc.). Psychedelic prog-pop? Patience rock? It's adrift, but it's forcefully grounded. It's epic, but it's languid. It's that aforementioned moving target, drawing you in but evading you slowly, like a storm system across a plain, or an unimaginably large bird taking flight, or a blue whale accelerating. It's accessible; it's inaccessible. The Besnard Lakes are the Freshwater Moby Dick. (www.thebesnardlakes.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 6/10