When husband-wife duo The Besnard Lakes bobbed to the surface in 2003 with Volume 1 it was wise that they had chosen to prefix their name with “The”. Conversations in the pub would likely have included phrases such as “Bernard who?” and “Who’s this Bernard geezer then?” as the brain can all too easily skip over the correct spelling, particularly when doused in booze.
Besnard is, for those not in the know, an actual lake in Saskatchewan, a Canadian province. The couple themselves hail from Montreal on the east coast of Canada and, with the help of various band members that have occasionally altered, they have released four albums to date. After experimental beginnings, they settled on a unique blend of shoegaze meets prog rock meets dream pop amongst other things and this saw them release a string of equally stunning albums, with The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night arguably the one that contained most ‘eclectic’ peaks.
While its predecessor The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse contained a couple of hard to match belters in And You Lied To Me and Devastation, the third effort cemented their credentials with several massive moments. Albatross soared to a shoegaze high alongside shimmering guitar, And This Is What We Call Progress stomped along powerfully to provide an unusually uplifting moment drenched in reverb and The Lonely Moan confirmed their ability to string together stunningly gorgeous chord changes.
So album five has a lot to live up to. Two pre-album releases appeared in 2015 – Golden Lion and The Plain Moon. The former had all the hallmarks of the classic sound the band have nailed including Jace Lasek’s falsetto vocal, a little fuzz and shimmer and a centrepiece chorus while the latter pounded along a little like Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax before throwing a curveball of a chorus that sounded more like the floaty higher-than-the-clouds vocal duets that permeate throughout their long players. However, both these early releases may be undeniably aesthetically pleasing but there’s probably less depth than there could have been, meaning they may start to be skipped over after half a dozen or more plays.
Fortunately, there are four tracks amongst the eight in total that are simply essential listens that could add quality to any of the previous four albums with ease. First up, album opener The Bray Road Beast shimmers and glistens like an overly polished sparkly gem to create a stunningly atmospheric moment of bliss with those nerve-tingling chord changes present in abundance alongside mesmerising guitar and vocals. Pressure Of Our Plans then takes up the gauntlet with a perfect synth-soaked backdrop created for both Lasek and wife Olga Goreas to lay down spectacular vocal contributions that genuinely send you up into the stratosphere with their delicate beauty, but it’s the genius guitaring that once again seals the song’s magnificence alongside more of those goosebump inducing chord changes.
But the best two tracks conclude the collection: Nightingale and Tungsten 4 The Refugee. Nightingale is basically the most brilliant piece of music akin to Pink Floyd that you are ever likely to hear without it actually being David Gilmour et al, with the lead out guitaring being particularly blissful. Album closer Tungsten 4 The Refugee then finishes on the highest of highs: a menacing beat is offset by Lasek’s falsetto and warbling, wavering synths and guitar but the guitar soloing that takes over the second half of the track on this occasion is nothing short of epic.
Whilst this level of brilliance is impossible to keep up over the course of an entire album, where it is achieved it elevates the entire collection to an enviable high and makes the suspiciously superficial moments less noticeable. A Coliseum Complex Museum, despite sporting yet another bonkers title, is a top effort that bolsters their burgeoning reputation, even if it doesn’t quite reach the highs of their very best.