The Besnard Lakes, ‘Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO’ – Album Review
If you had to pick one track that best represents the Besnard Lakes sound, it’d be ‘The Spectre,’ a gushing waterfall of sonic mysticism from the band’s fourth studio album, ‘Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO.’ The track — like the Canadian quartet itself — is a throwback to the heady spectrum of late-’70s psych-rock, the golden age in which prog and pop were briefly aligned. In its expansive six-and-a-half minutes, ‘The Spectre’ moves from spacey textural mist to thunderous black-magic churn, blending the polished formalism of classic-period ELO (reflected in Jace Lasek’s ghostly falsetto and jazzy wurtlizer) and the grandiose wollop of Pink Floyd.
The Besnard Lakes are one of the most undervalued rock bands on the planet, which is ironic, since they’re so reliable. You basically know going into a Besnard Lakes album what you’re getting: creamy layers of electric guitar, textural keyboard dreaminess, the surrealistic blend of male and female voices weaving into colorful tapestries of melody. They haven’t altered that approach one bit over their decade-long run, but with ‘UFO,’ they have expanded their scope: In terms of sheer velocity and force, they’ve positively dwarfed the hazier, more impressionistic mixes found on 2007′s ‘…Are the Dark Horse’ and 2010′s ‘…Are the Roaring Night.’ This is an album that sounds positively huge, even in its quietest moments — like the sparkling mellotron washes of ‘Catalina’ or the quiet post-rock build of opener ’46 Satires’ (which eventually erupts into a guitar solo laced with molten-lava phaser). Simply put, rock bands don’t make albums like this anymore — ones engineered for light-show soundtracks and religious LSD awakenings. In terms of immersive studio documents, ‘UFO’ belongs to a sadly dying breed.
There’s nothing particularly revelatory about what Besnard Lakes have accomplished on this album — it’s just a continuation of their trademark excellence in a slightly more epic framing. If there’s one glaring issue, it’s the lack of a clear stand-out, like ‘Dark Horse”s ‘For Agent 22′ or ‘Roaring Night”s ‘Albatross’ — a focused, emotive masterpiece that the rest of the album funnels toward. It’s a trade-off: ‘UFO’ is definitely their most cohesive listening experience, but it doesn’t work quite as well on Shuffle mode.
Then again, listening to The Besnard Lakes on your MP3 player is like streaming a pirated 3D movie without 3D glasses. Like everything else in their catalog, ‘UFO’ is transportive music that demands (and mostly rewards) attentive listening.