The Besnard Lakes - Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
Don't ask me what's going on with that album title. I haven't got a clue. At least The Besnard Lakes didn't go with what had become somewhat of a naming convention for them, and call their fourth album The Besnard Lakes Are Imperceptible UFOs, or something like that. Getting past a title like Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO may be difficult for some, but despite the indecipherable name, the Canadian band's musical vision is as clear as day. As people who heard lead single 'People of the Sticks' may have guessed, they've gone full-on shoegaze this time around. The new record is a step away from the neo-prog that characterised 2010's ...Are the Roaring Night, but it rubbishes any notions of slavish imitations by making sure that the quartet stay true to their ethos. An album wearing its influences on its sleeve is sometimes unavoidable, but TBL thankfully avoid that. The new record's an evolution of their own sound more than anything else.
There's a synth-heavy feel to opener '46 Satires', which kicks things off in a rather low-key manner, before exploding into life with a raucous guitar solo mid-way through, falling back into a serene mid-tempo groove, Olga Goreas's vocals lulling the listener back into a false sense of security before letting loose for the first bout of noise on the album. The band have always had a knack for creating interesting song structures, and despite the record's tendency to lay on the typical guitar squalls at key moments, TBL also steer well clear of the crescendocore beloved by so many post-rock bands, with the coda to 'And Her Eyes Were Painted Gold' one of the most delicate moments on the album. They know what works - even though Until in Excess... features only eight tracks, none of them are shorter than five minutes, and none of them outstay their welcome. There is a supreme air of confidence that drives the album and means the band are capable of throwing in more psychedelic elements at their leisure, as they do on 'The Specter'. They often display the sure-footedness of a band who know their limits but strive to push beyond them at every turn.
The second half brings the noise, with songs like 'At Midnight' (whose extended instrumental outro shows that the band have lost none of their ability to get locked into an idea and jam it out - in fact, there's a looseness to much of the new material which works rather well) and the haunting closer 'Alamogordo' showing that the band are well able to rock out when the mood takes them. They've always relied heavily on atmosphere, but the new album works as a distillation of what their previous records sounded like, as well as the start of something new. The Besnard Lakes have only really been on the ascent for six years (2003 debut Volume 1 only saw a full release in late 2007 after The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse preceded it at the start of the year), but they've come a long way since then, and despite their latest album's title, it's what's inside that counts - and what's inside is arguably their best album yet.