The Besnard Lakes
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The Besnard Lakes

Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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"The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse"

As the title of their second album makes plain, the Besnard Lakes are indeed the dark horses of a Montreal indie rock community that has consumed so many column inches in the music press over the past three years, a band that's often stood on the periphery of greatness-- they opened the Unicorns' 2004 North American tour, while singer/guitarist Jace Lasek's Break Glass Studio produced Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary and Sunset Rubdown's Shut Up I Am Dreaming-- but never tasted it themselves. Though it's not as if the Besnard Lakes were unfairly denied their due, having released a gauzy 2003 debut that was heavy on languorous shoegazer jangle/drone, but low on personality and vigor.

The Dark Horse shares that album's deliberate sense of pacing, precious attention to detail and hermetic sound-world atmosphere; the difference here is that almost every song builds to a crucial moment where the Besnards bravely step out of the shadows, and in the process, transform from being a merely good band to a great one. And just as the individual tracks ascend to their own internal peaks, so too does the eight-song sequence as a whole, which means patience is certainly a virtue here: Opener "Disaster" begins as a swell of forlorn falsettos and weepy strings (courtesy of in-house arranger Nicole Lizee and moonlighting Godspeed violinist Sophie Trudeau) that yields to a slumberous chorus of Brian Wilson harmonies; "For Agent 13" is all slow-dissolving, ladies-and-gentleman-we-are-floating-in-Spiritualized tremolos and mournful coos that sound like they're coming from a castrated Sigur Rós.

It's not until the third track, "And You Lied to Me", that The Dark Horse really achieves lift-off, and not without some great effort: the song seems to be deliberately working against its itself with its Floydian glide, oddly timed drum rolls at the chorus and frequent pauses filled in with strange, indecipherable murmurs. But finally, at the 4:56, we hit pay dirt: after a brief stop, the drums kick in and guitarist Steve Raegele and guest Jonathan Cummins (ex of the Doughboys, currently of Bionic) blast into a glorious two-way duel worthy of its own planetarium laser show. And then instead of coming down, the Besnards turn it up another notch thanks to bassist/Lacek's belle Olga Goreas' star turn on "Devastations", a hellacious, fuck-the-man screen delivered in 70s-smooth girly harmonies that provide an uncanny contrast to song's monstrous psych-metal groove and-- oh yes-- climactic three-way drum solo.

Together, these two songs form the front half of The Dark Horse's awesome middle stretch, but their playful bombast is effectively counterbalanced by the two songs that follow: "Because Tonight" is the album's most moving performance, a swaying space-rock ballad that intensifies into a beautifully bawling chorus; "Ride the Rails" is its most foreboding, with a circular bass riff and ominous violin inflections that lend it an ominous allure. It's also the song that best exemplifies Lacek's recurring lyrical strategy of trading off between World War II-era imagery and the present tense, with verses told through the eyes of a desperate drifter ("Gotta find a better to go on") and a chorus ("my father rides the rails") that shifts the perspective to a contemporary third-person telling. So it figures that the one song with an identifiably modern setting-- Brooklyn set piece "On Bedford and Grand"-- is the one that ultimately breaks The Dark Horse's dreamlike spell, an amiable but uneventful fuzz-pop exercise on which the Besnards come off as just another band of shoegaze revivalists.

But as sprightly Beach Boys pastiche "Cedric's War" gallops triumphantly to the finish line, you realize what's really remarkable about The Dark Horse: that for all its epic intimations and interstellar overdriving, the album still clocks in at a lean 45 minutes. Clearly, the Besnard Lakes are the product of a generation that remembers when their favorite albums used to fit perfectly on one side of a C90. But they've retrofitted classic-rock grandeur to indie-rock dimensions and forged their own special niche-- space-rock that's down to Earth.

-Stuart Berman, February 20, 2007
- Pitchfork Media

"Volume I"

The packaging is what made me first pick up this CD and put it in the player. It looked like something I would be into. It is dark and minimal, and the focus is a quiet photo of a lonely looking street, with Motel signs and dim street lights illuminating the subtle atmosphere. Based out of Montreal, The Besnard Lakes provide a lush sounding CD that delivers the best of space, drone, pop rock and noise. That is, in my opinion, the perfect combination for psychedelic music.

This release begins with gushes and swirls of noise with wind that builds into this awesome wall of mush and fuzz. Guitars, bass and quiet drums penetrate these walls of captivating noise providing a big fluffy cloud of hums, tones and delayed harmony. The dynamics involved in the song structures on this release are intense. It ranges from being ambient to noise-pop to upbeat head bopping stuffÂ…..ItÂ’s like the perfect mixed CD! And the variation between male and female vocals is a plus in any band setting. Best of both worlds.

Volume 1 provides catchy tunes, exploding blips, frequency shifts and mellow organ keyboard lines that sound like they are coming from millions of light years away somewhere in the depths of outer space. These guys know how to make their sound travel far….. Highlights for me are “Skyscraper Girls” and “You’ve got to want to be a star”. This release, to say the least, is the perfect companion for your CD player for the upcoming winter. Their hint of heartache and romance is epic and compelling. I have always thought falling in love is easier to do in the winter.

By anne sulikowski
Oct 7, 2003 - !earshot


Volume I (2007)
Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse (2007)

Both released under Jagjaguwar.



The Besnard Lakes were formed by the husband and wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, and they have released two albums.
The band are currently a six-piece centered around the atmospheric songs of Lasek and Goreas, whose expansive sound draws from numerous aspects of rock 'n' roll history.
On both of their records, The Besnard Lakes have shown that they are masters of finely-honed experimental pop songs. This is music that's both instantly accessible and grows on you over time. Unique in style, it's a winning combination of intriguing songwriting and diverse arrangements.
Montrealers by way of Western Canada.