The Besnard Lakes have arrived at the point in their career where they can determine whether their future efforts will end up predictably great, or just predictable. The advancements that the band made in applying human elements to their explorative engineering between their first and second formal LPs were remarkable, but their third suggested potential for diminishing returns on that in the future. Not that 2010’s Are the Roaring Night was anything short of outstanding, but it birthed mounting worries that for every new Besnard Lakes album, “another Besnard Lakes album” might become an increasingly legitimate descriptor.
That concern stays alive with the band’s fourth LP, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, but not to the point of spoiling an otherwise engaging listen. The eight tracks, running anywhere from five-and-a-half to seven-minutes long, follow Lakes’ well-established approach of shaping gigantic crests from a variety of sustainment effects, ranging from textbook shoegaze to synth drones that might as well be sampled from actual flying saucer engines. The hikes to the summits are long, but the views from the top are always worth it.
It’s not until the third track, “People of the Sticks”, that UFO comes to life. The sole cut on the record that can reasonably be described as up-tempo (or anything above a crawl for that matter), “Sticks” is hardly the “single” at 5:25, but it’s the closest we get to an “Albatross” with its soaring hook sung by Olga Goreas and the crispest drumming on the album. The following track, “The Spectre”, finds Goreas’ husband and co-frontman Jace Lasek reverting to his beloved Beach Boys-derived “ooo-weee-ooo” vocal harmonies, this time complementing sleepwalking guitar arpeggios. “Close your eyes”, he repeats and convinces throughout.
UFO’s second half keeps it coming with similar swells until the penultimate track, “Color Yr Lights In”, when it all bursts apart into the album’s kaleidescopic peak: a flooring supernova of swirling guitars punctuated with massive cymbal crashes.
Lasek and Goreas could easily tenure Besnard Lakes as an outfit good for 50 minutes of galaxy-sized post-rock and dream pop material every other year, and it would always be welcome. But there’s a pivotal point looming, one in which they’ll have to respond to the question of whether they’re interested in creating something that serves a different purpose that they haven’t already conquered time and again. For now, UFO is more than enough to hold us over, a reminder of the one-of-a-kind sonic universes the Montreal dreamers live to create and create to live in.
Essential Tracks: “People of the Sticks”, “Color Yr Lights In”, and “Alamogordo”