The Besnard Lakes

Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings

Originally conceived as one long suite of music, the new Besnard Lakes may just be a career high for the Quebecois psych rockers, finds Julian Marszalek

At first glance, it would appear to be a dumb ass move to compare the creamy’n’dreamy psychedelia of The Besnard Lakes with the ramalama of long-serving rock & roll veterans AC/DC, but scratch below the surface sheen and there’s plenty of common ground to be found. While both bands have locked into their individual and idiosyncratic grooves, they’ve both just dusted off and delved into a treasure trove of offcuts, unrealised ideas and discarded material that has been subsequently re-animated and re-purposed under the darkened shadows of mortality and bereavement. And while AC/DC have made their best album in 40 years, The Besnard Lakes have just achieved a career high with the latest addition to their growing body of work.

Having parted company with long-time label Jagjaguwar to hook up with Full Time Hobby, The Besnard Lakes are back on course after the misfire that was predecessor A Coliseum Complex Museum. An attempt to steer the band away from what made them so special, its compact presentation has been jettisoned in favour of music that throws its arms in the air to reach out beyond the sky and into the deepest realms of the cosmos. And it’s all been achieved without keeping an eye on the clock.

Moving at a satisfyingly glacial pace, The Besnard Lakes Are The Last Of The Great Thunderstorm Warnings is an album that reveals its rewards over multiple listens. Originally conceived to be presented as a single suite of music, sense has prevailed to instead offer nine tracks spread over an epic 72-minutes. Crucially, this is a record that not only snubs the notion of music designed for short attention spans, it also does so by playing to the band’s core strengths.

As evidenced by the slow, smouldering build of ‘Blackstrap’, The Besnard Lakes are in no hurry to offer a quick fix and instead create a barely perceptible yet palpable increase of mood and intensity. Elsewhere, the harmonies of ‘Raindrops’ are joyous and deeply affecting, coming on with the uplift of a celestial choir while the instrumentation – a subtle yet effective blend of languid guitars, keys, drums and an endless array of effects pedals – finds The Besnard Lakes scaling new heights.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, by going through their odds’n’sods, The Besnard Lakes had run out of ideas, not least when the opposite is true. With the benefit of time on their hands and the lack of any deadlines, they’ve been able to breathe new life into ideas that would’ve forever gathered dust. Theirs is an ability to spot a fragment or shard and turn it into a foundation upon which to build their densely layered yet melodically accessible music. ‘Our Heads, Our Hearts On Fire Again’ is a case in point. Written as a film score some 10 years ago, here it is recast as a rollicking, yomping stomper that deceptively gives the impression of being faster than it actually is.

Finding value in what might otherwise have been discarded, The Besnard Lakes have pursued their singular vision to stunning effect with a sense of re-assuring familiarity and security. And right now that’s a currency worth more than gold.

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