Album Review: The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum

Montreal outfit sound like they've overturned every stone on their once exciting world




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    The Besnard Lakes’ new album sounds just as the title suggests: A Coliseum Complex Museum. As they have proven over their last four records, the Montreal quartet has a tendency to make grandiose symphonies and sweeping musical suites. There’s no question that this type of songwriting comes easy for Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas; they find themselves most comfortable making epics that strive for the stature of Dark Side of the Moon. But while they have found a sound that is truly their own, A Coliseum Complex Museum proves that they feel far too comfortable in it.

    Released earlier in 2015, “Golden Lion” and “The Plain Moon” checked off all the boxes of the band’s classic sound — situated nicely somewhere between dream pop, shoegaze, and prog rock. Reverb-laden choruses, meandering guitar solos, and Lasek’s honey-dripped falsettos undeniably return to the aesthetic they already explored on Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO and The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. Those albums dug into every experimental corner and surprise they could, leaving Coliseum Complex now in a deep-fitted routine that feels all too familiar.

    Despite the redundancy, it’s not an unenjoyable ride. Featherlight harmonies and forlorn coos float along a pysch pop groove on “The Plain Moon” and “Nightingale”. Songs like “Golden Lion” and “The Bray Road Beast” boast some of the best harmonies of the band’s catalog, ranging from ominous croons to dreamy hooks. They uncannily combine smooth, understated timbres juxtaposed and maximal, bombastic backdrops on“Golden Lion”, while “Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound” reaches towards the best of both Sigur Ros and Brian Wilson.


    But their hallmarks can also be their crutch. Clocking in at 39 minutes, the album doesn’t strive to the massive scope of Until in Excess, but it still feels weighty. Everything seems condensed, as if things were trimmed down for time without considering their density. “Tungsten 4: The Refugee” is a brief, yet over-the-top tribute to psychedelia, from the epic guitar excursions to the swirling, bubbly synths. There are enough stunning chord changes and blustering guitar solos to go around, but, at this point, even these feel like uneventful routine.

    After their shoegaze revivalist debut in 2003, they created their own world with The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, one with a uniquely grand, delicate delicate atmosphere. Unfortunately, each album since has continued to annotate that same world, and at this point they sound like they’ve overturned every stone. The Montreal outfit sounds like they’ve run out of ideas and are starting to repeat their already expansive catalogue. If they don’t shake things up soon, Besnard Lakes may end with a whimper.

    Essential Tracks: “The Plain Moon”, “Golden Lion”

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