Slowly but surely, the Besnard Lakes have grouped together a quietly potent discography that upholds a commitment to grand, sweeping gestures. The Canadian quintet, lead by wedded pair Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, have mastered throughout the years a sound that pairs together common rock tropes with an intricate psychedelic mesh of instrumental and sonic experimentation. It seemed as if the Lakes were ready to shift into a more classical style after their 2013 release Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, which sounded more conceptually focused without turning away from their immaculate vocal harmonies and opulent instrumentation.
A sense of wander and calm especially prevailed in UFO, making the spaces in between their grand, breathtaking dynamics far more noticeable than, say, the lush bluster of The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. The contrasts are minute and not too pronounced — this is a band that relishes consistency over innovation, so there’s no reason to expect them to verge into unfamiliar territory without first giving us room to consider any other perspective than their own. It’d be erroneous to underplay their ambitious streak, however; they did name their latest A Coliseum Complex Museum after all, and that potential for sheer dominance, especially through the power of heroic codas and stout guitar leads, will always stand proudly by their side.
A deep love for texture and amplification is what gives the Besnard Lakes records their distinctive flair, manifesting a capacity to engage with a kaleidoscopic resonance. Certainly there’s a need to illustrate their ambitions by way of capacious suites, such as in “Pressure of Our Plans”, which holds a trancelike drone throughout its sustained, pounding beat. It does hold close parallels with Roaring Night’s need to maintain a uniform structure throughout, played loudly and with rousing verve, also exemplified in the “The Plain Moon’s” pummeling groove (though it’s slightly askew chorus is surely a highlight).
A Coliseum Complex Museum can be terribly exacting at times, though those who’ve explored their past discography would likely see this as a strength and not a limitation. But for all their calculated strokes they still retain their intangible abstractions, seeing as their unintentionally comical song titles and feral melodic contours really hold no answers. There’s really no sound cause to name a song “Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound”, which leaves no other reason to believe that the song’s uncompromising sonic squall could truly be taken as a literal description. For all intents and purposes, it’s best to throw reason out the door and just leave the album’s flighty sprawl envelop you into a radiant haze.
Save for the surprisingly underwritten moments, like the ponderously one-note “Necronomicon”, A Coliseum Complex Museum is a somewhat predictable, though no less impeccably arranged, journey that exhibits the Besnard Lakes’ commitment to disciplined psychedelia. It may not the band’s watershed moment, who’ve yet to deliver a serious misfire, but it doesn’t mean their silvery tumult can still bring rapture to the soul.