Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Besnard Lakes - what, where & who...

The Besnard Lakes are, rather unsurprisingly I suppose, lakes. They are situated somewhere in Canada and are apparently incredibly beautiful. I can't tell you for sure because I have never seen them. I expect it is true but for once Google isn't proving too helpful...
So successfully have Jace Lasek and his wife Olga Goreas made 'The Besnard Lakes'
(TBL) the name of their band that the natural feature that inspired them has all but disappeared from the map!

Firstly two apologies:

  • The whole musical world does not actually revolve around Brighton (HSCS release 'The Death of Nightlife' next Monday and it too is available on 12" vinyl) and Canada but in this blog it might seem like it just at the moment!
  • I'm going to review two perhaps "difficult" albums in succession.
The album 'The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse' has some features in common with my previous review, one being that it takes a bit of patience to see where it is going. It is about the same length, but only eight tracks long, and while 'No Shouts, No Calls' is 'atmospheric' this one falls more into the 'epic' category and even, dare I say it, induces a certain nostalgia.
In some ways it is even easier to make a comparison with Arcade Fire here, but equally unwise to take it too far!

Yes, they are from Montreal, have a husband and wife team at the front, and have a liking for lush instrumental arrangement but then the differences are apparent. TBL are a five-piece but make ready use of other artists on this album, notably Sophie Trudeau - of Godspeed You Black Emperor - on both violin and cello.
TBL however make much more ready use of Olga Goreas on female lead vocals (she predominates overall and particularly on the decidedly heavy numbers that owe much to the influence and use of techniques taken more obviously from 1970s prog-rock and even heavy rock) and while the lyrics are almost always gloomy the songs often still sound remarkably cheerful. The opening track Disaster, which she mostly sings, being a good case in point as
it starts off sounding like a lullaby before Jace takes the thread and it gets complicated. It is followed by For Agent 13 that is also sung by Olga but there is much electronic distortion, particularly on the vocals, which gives it a slightly creepy edge and the lyrics are rather more urgent. It is pretty obvious by now that something strange is going on as the percussion is sometimes quite deliberately at odds with the rest (a trick Charlotte Hatherley also uses on her 2007 album 'The Deep Blue').

By the start of track three the album is in full flow and for the next four tracks it is quite unstoppable.
  • And You Lied To Me
  • Devastation
  • Because Tonight
  • Ride The Rails
They rock in every sense of the word. Only the last is less than five minutes, and then only by a few seconds, and two are well over seven minutes long. This section of the album is 'epic rock' done properly and not just a pastiche. It takes 1970 'space-rock' and firmly anchors it on planet earth.
And You Lied To Me is sung by Jace and is a fine track with a particularly good finish - even the more subdued TBL tracks tend to build to a finale. If Disaster was light-hearted then Devastation dispels the myth; Olga returns to vocal duties backed by a rhythm section consisting of three bass guitars (one of which she plays herself) and three drummers. There is usually no excuse whatsoever for this kind of indulgence but, without a shred of doubt, it works here!
Because Tonight starts rather like Agent 13 but this time more slowly and with a choral section and some strings, backed by continuing radiophonic garbling, before the track once again turns serious and the guitars make themselves known. This the most "spaced out" song on the album and Jace and Olga sing in harmony. It then ends surprisingly suddenly.
Ride The Rails
is another fine track and it is more obviously down to earth than those that came before and the nearest that this album comes to narrative.
Some people have suggested that the final two tracks are "weak". I think that is a relative: while I agree that On Bedford and Grand is the weakest track on the album it is not one I would be bothered to skip. The final track, Cedric's War, I really like. It sounds that the band are just having a lot of fun but as usual the lyrics aren't in the least bit cheerful.

No comments: