The third album by Montrealean married duo Olga Goreas and
Jace Lasek churns cathedral-sized anthems and clots them with MBV-ish miasmas
of guitar murk. It pits unstoppable
melodic climaxes against paranoiac visions of espionage and betrayal. Enormous in scale, absorbing, obliterating,
this is an album that picks you up on a tidal wave of conjured emotion, sucks
you under, tosses you about and finally leaves you beached and gasping. It is an anti-war album that could rally an
army, rousing powerful, untethered emotions to who knows what end. It is inchoately persuasive, and you buy in
without really knowing what the message is.
Besnard Lakes come out of the same northerly
scene that spawned Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, but also Constellation bands
like Godspeed and Silver Mount Zion. Their aesthetic is somewhere in the sweet spot
where damaged Dennis Wilson choruses meet squalls of feedbacked improvisations.
The giant two-parted cuts that frame the
album, opener “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent” and second side epic “Land of
the Living Skies”, proceed weightily, at a measured pace, from shadowy
noise-scapes into soaring, solidarity-engendering melodies. To listen, even without humming along, is to
feel yourself swept up in a larger enterprise, a journey, a shared ethos, that
ruthlessly incorporates all comers. “Albatross,” the single starts in a wavering
flare of Loveless guitar distortion,
picks up Goreas’ angelic, dreamy vocals, then intensifies into a dream-march to
the sea. Even casual observations like
“Chicago Train”‘s repeated assurance that “This is the last train…to Chicago” gain heft and
otherworldly significance when tethered to this slow-moving ritual music.
Night pulls off the difficult feat of being nearly all crescendo,
all finale, without becoming tedious or overblown. Like 2007’s Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse (and, if anything, even
more so) this is music right at the edge of bombast but not over it, grand but
not grandiose, ambitious but not overweening.
Tracks: “Albatross” “Chicago
Train” “Land of the Living Skies” JENNIFER