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The Besnard Lakes find a musical intensity in contrast, playing songs that are both icy and fiery, ethereal and bombastic, pensive and explosive.

The band’s latest album, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, is a collection of eight songs that unfold deliberately, from their slow awakening always to a climactic peak, shuddering in fits of noise.

On this fourth record, the Montreal band—Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas at its core since the beginning—expand their sound a bit, indulging in a bit of additional restraint that makes room for sonic nuances, courtesy of guests like Moonface’s Spencer Krug and Mike Bigelow, The Barr Brothers’ Sarah Page and the Fifth String Liberation Singers Choir.

In other hands, an album title like Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO would reek of pretension, a heavy-handed attempt at mystery. But for The Besnard Lakes, a band that’s spent three albums playing wildly conceptual prog-rock that deals in lyrical imagery of war and espionage, the title instead offers an intriguing clue of what’s inside.

Aiding in that is the cover art, the third painting for the band from Corri-Lynn Tetz and the first without flames. The cover for The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse is exactly that, with the creature, midnight black, standing mythically amidst yellow flames. The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night is an image of cannonball haze and apocalyptic doom. Until in Excess is soft greens and blues, featuring some sort of an eruption of light.

What Until in Excess inherits most from its predecessors is eeriness, a sci-fi sense of wonder, unease and disbelief. “What was that sound I heard that suddenly appeared?” sings Goreas on the opening line of “At Midnight.” “The Specter” has the same sort of lyrical core: “Can you hear me knocking from the other side?”

Less emphasized on this album, however, are the catchy moments that punctuated The Roaring Night. The single “Albatross” was such a compelling presence on The Roaring Night not because it was an outlier, but because it distilled that very same essence—dreamy slowburn turning bombastic—into something slightly different. Similarly, “Glass Printer” stuck out because it soared from the first notes rather than gaining its altitude slowly.

Until in Excess opener “46 Satires” comes close to the same sort of punchy thrill, but the build is longer, the hook a bit buried under the whirlwind of noise the band unleashes. What gives Until in Excess its embossed quality are the subtle flourishes, fleeting details that reward the discovery of increased attention: amid the swirling prog-rock march of “And Her Eyes Were Painted Gold” is a sudden touch of doo-wop in Lasek’s vocals; when the icy calm that spreads across the early half of “Catalina” is suddenly snapped by a drumbeat; the unearthly guitar squeal that hangs in the air like a theremin on “The Specter.”

The album becomes more mesmerizing as it unfolds, the songs like windows covered by slowly drawn back drapes. Though the “plot” might not always be clear, Until in Excess unfolds in chapters like a long tale and by the time the closing song “Alamogordo” finishes its nearly three-minute fade out, what’s left is a dreamy calm and sense of completion.

Published April 2, 2013 in Paste Magazine.

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Eric Swedlund is a writer, photographer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. His music writing has appeared regularly in the Tucson Weekly, Phoenix New Times, East Bay Express, The Rumpus and Souciant Magazine.

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