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Album Review: Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO by The Besnard Lakes
Very Good, Based on 11 Critics
Filter - 83 Based on rating 83%%
The world didn’t end in 2012, but The Besnard Lakes have nonetheless continued to hone a pre-apocalyptic sound with their latest, Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO. The title alludes to an otherworldly presence, replicated through the doom-dripped “46 Satires,” and the somber “And Her Eyes Were Painted Gold” is reminiscent of Pet Sounds–era Beach Boys. Spirit of Brian Wilson aside, through warbled vocals and doom-laden synths, the Montreal band casts even the world’s end in a beautiful light.
Begun in 2011 at the Montreal dream pop act's own Breakglass Studios, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is the Besnard Lakes' fourth full-length and keeps to their habit of releasing a dense, lovingly crafted album awash with crunching guitars and hazy strings every three to four years. Led and formed by the husband/wife duo of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, it's clear that Breakglass is the key instrument when defining the Besnards' sound. While 2007's The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse was a step up both sonically and commercially from their Smashing Pumpkins-influenced low-key 2004 debut, Vol.
Canadian four-piece The Besnard Lakes have never been much of a band for announcing their presence with a big old guitar riff and a statement of intent. Their music has always been insidious and stealthy; it emerges almost imperceptibly from a blanket of silence and creeps into your ear canals like a burglar in the night. On their fourth album, the splendidly-named Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, the two-time Polaris Prize nominees have changed very little about this blueprint: the result is just under 50 minutes of their signature atmospheric, uplifting drone-pop.
The Besnard Lakes make music as elegant as their album titles are clunky. The Montreal quartet’s fourth record, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, is no exception. The group’s co-auteurs, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, approach the construction of Besnard Lakes’ LPs with the same level of fastidiousness that Brian Wilson and Roger Waters displayed on masterworks of studiocraft like Pet Sounds and Dark Side of the Moon.
The Besnard Lakes find a musical intensity in contrast, playing songs that are both icy and fiery, ethereal and bombastic, pensive and explosive. The band’s latest album, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, is a collection of eight songs that unfold deliberately, from their slow awakening always to a climactic peak, shuddering in fits of noise. On this fourth record, the Montreal band—Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas at its core since the beginning—expand their sound a bit, indulging in a bit of additional restraint that makes room for sonic nuances, courtesy of guests like Moonface’s Spencer Krug and Mike Bigelow, The Barr Brothers’ Sarah Page and the Fifth String Liberation Singers Choir.
From the dramatic swell of instruments and voices at the outset of opening track "46 Satires" there's little doubt that this is a Besnard Lakes album. With four now under their collective belts, it can safely be said that the Montreal quartet have mastered the art of space-rock soundscapes while maintaining a toehold in the terrestrial pop world. Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO comes on like a warm bath, more comforting in some ways than the group's previous two Polaris-nominated albums, until "People of the Sticks" provides some clarity.
On their two previous albums that were widely available in the UK, The Besnard Lakes went for evocative titles that nevertheless seemed to suggest at what treasures lied within: The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse revealed their slow burning talents, while The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night bathed their songs in waves of feedback, crashing drums and squealing guitar solos. So, what can we expect with their latest album, and its impenetrable title? Well, that doesn’t give much away, but opener ‘46 Satires’ gives a decent representation of what’s to follow. Over a slowly unfurling bass scale, the song blooms into waves of shoegazing synths and singer Olga Goreas’s distant, spaced-out vocals, a crash of proggy guitars interrupting proceedings half way through before retreating from whence they came.
The Besnard Lakes are unafraid of size. They’re like Lake Michigan, a body so large it seems borderless, oceanic, and yet there’s a remarkable calm to it. Their sound isn’t tidal, it just reminds you of its constant size and the different permutations that size can take on. The band’s past two records, are the Dark Horse and are the Roaring Night, were exercises in meshing pop control with post-rock size.
The Besnard Lakes have arrived at the point in their career where they can determine whether their future efforts will end up predictably great, or just predictable. The advancements that the band made in applying human elements to their explorative engineering between their first and second formal LPs were remarkable, but their third suggested potential for diminishing returns on that in the future. Not that 2010’s Are the Roaring Night was anything short of outstanding, but it birthed mounting worries that for every new Besnard Lakes album, “another Besnard Lakes album” might become an increasingly legitimate descriptor.
In the afterglow of Arcade Fire's success, Besnard Lakes featured prominently on the 2007 NME compilation Canadian Blast: The Sound of the New Canada Scene. They instantly sounded like the ethereal real deal, a band who could endure and thrive even in the most rarefied of atmospheres. The positive and soaring fourth album Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO is the sun seeking yang to the darker yin of The Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd-penned apocalyptica on The Terror.
Montreal’s The Besnard Lakes are probably the kind of band you’ve heard a lot in passing, but have never set aside the time to dive in to. You’d be forgiven for not having done so; many of their songs clock in at six or seven minutes, and they don’t bend themselves over to be accessible to the general public. But the brand of reverb-heavy shoegaze they’ve crafted out for themselves has not gone unnoticed.