Packing your belongings and heading for four days drive into the wilderness with your friends is the sort of idyllic escape most cramped cityfolk lust after. But The Besnard Lakes did just that to make this album. The band recorded the demos for A Coliseum Complex Museum at Besnard Lake – an actual place _ in Saskatchewan. Reflecting on his time there in the middle of winter in a trailer he says, 'You feel like you’re the only person on earth and it really allows you to have intense contemplation without any distractions.'
Evidently, naming the band after the lake implies that wilderness has been a longstanding influence on their combination of dreamy Floydian vocal melodies and introverted My Bloody Valentine-esque instrumentals. But this is the first time they've used their trailer in the woods to make music, and not just for inspiration.
The album generates a very vivid sense of place: it has parallels with The Revenant, the Leonardo Di Caprio blockbuster praised for its epic Canadian scenery. An article in the Evening Standard last week suggested we fetishise nature more and more, calling the phenomenon 'wilderness porn'. The Besnard Lakes make 'wilderness porn'. Their sound, and the lyrics about albatrosses, stars, roads to nowhere, and solitude, will seduce any city dweller into thinking of long lost sensations such as not walking on pavement and seeing more than three stars at night.
The ambitious and miraculously executed cinematic soundscape owes a lot to the band's self-production. Continuing the approach of other albums of using the studio as an instrument, they've multi-tracked vocals, and written soaring melodies that echo the power and majesty of remote places as well as Sigur Ros.
Part of the success in developing such ambitious record,s is their use of Breakglass Studio and it's a treasure cave of great analog equipment. One piece of gear in particular, the Neve Pre 80 Series 58 input console, which is thought to be the mixing desk used on Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, among other great records, has a helping hand in the output. This hardwired marvel is a true blessing to the swirling psychedelic rock that they so brilliantly create.
But this sonic gem doesn't stop at being a technical masterpiece: the band have sharpened their arrows compared with past albums and the songs are much more concise. The eight songs flow and don't meander until the earned prog rock noodling outro on the last track, 'Tungset 4 The Refugee'. Before that, all the songs are very direct. Even where they threaten to go into introverted self indulgence with Slowdive-esque labyrinth guitar work, they stay up above the surface, and let the song lead. 'Golden Lion' is a particularly strong psych-pop cut with nods to a more falsetto Super Furry Animals. Elsewhere it's easy to see why, 'The Plain Moon' is a single with its hook-y BRMC-esque guitar riff and anti war words, 'put those guns away'. Lastly, 'Nightingale' adds emotional depth to the album - it's understated, yet incredibly ominous. This album should convince you that solitude can inspire great musical work.
8Cai Trefor's Score