fri 14/06/2024

CD: The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum

CD: The Besnard Lakes - A Coliseum Complex Museum

Hard to penetrate fifth album from Canada’s musical fantasists

The Besnard Lakes' 'A Coliseum Complex Museum': examining the relationship between cryptozoology and the portents evoked by natural phenomena

A Coliseum Complex Museum is defined by its density. The Montréal band’s fifth album begins with a flurry of percussion which gives way to treated guitar and frontman Jace Lasek’s almost-falsetto vocal. Opening cut “The Bray Road Beast” is initially ethereal, with the space between each musical contribution suggesting a tantalisingly unfinished picture. By the time it finishes, after five minutes, layer upon layer of guitar, Mellotron, double-tracked vocals and more have been added.

The result is a steamrolling assault on the ears.

The Besnard Lakes’ favoured mélange remains a constant: Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac-type vocals (Lasek and his wife Olga Goreas); My Bloody Valentine-style shoegazing shimmer and distortion; soaring Neil Young-inclined guitar; the forward momentum and rhythmic muscle of metal. Lasek’s distinctive, keening voice brings the whole an otherworldly quality. The other constant is that each Besnard Lakes album bears an overriding concept. On their breakthrough second album The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse (2007), it was a mythical war. Here, it is the relationship between cryptozoology and the portents evoked by natural phenomena. The sixth track is titled “Necronomicon”, after HP Lovecraft’s fictional magical text.

With an even more condensed production than its predecessor Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO (2013), A Coliseum Complex Museum is hard to penetrate. The soaring melodies Lasek and Goreas carry are submerged into the totality. The mastering pushes playback levels to their highest possible point: parts of fifth track “Plain Moon” come across as mush. There is little of the room which helped make The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse so instantly striking. The approach begs the question of how loud this will be when rendered live. And The Besnard Lakes are always an in-person high-volume proposition. Some of fellow Montréal band Arcade Fire’s wearying lack of subtlety seems to have rubbed off on The Besnard Lakes. A Coliseum Complex Museum is shoegazing as headbanging.

Overleaf: Watch the promotional film for The Besnard Lakes’ A Coliseum Complex Museum


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