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The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

Released on Jagjaguwar, 3/9/10

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Once again let us turn our attention to Canada, but this time leave your distended pride, patriotism and unusual affinity for winter sport behind. Instead, let us open our thoughts to our neighbors to the north, and let us surrender to the sanctified surges of sound created by Montreal-based group the Besnard Lakes.

The husband-and-wife team, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, who have been releasing albums following their signature saturated drone-space rock approach since 2003, have hit a milestone with their latest release, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night. A supposed conversation between two spies as they navigate through a potentially fabricated war while relations go steadily south and tensions begin to rise, it is truly a conceptual cavern of constant movement and a fully charged forty-six minute adventure.

Confusing? A bit. Certainly this album is cloaked within a shroud of sonic mystery. It becomes difficult to decipher the true movement of the music behind the almost constant backdrop of droning guitars, omnichords and mellotrons. But this adds to the idea that, conceptually speaking, we are at war. One spy following another through a fantastical land thickened by the clouds of a burning city and an encoded means of communication. We are allowed into their realm of being and therefore truly experience the eeriness before us.

As the album progresses, a certain momentum is gained and lightness begins to creep into the sound, almost celebratory in nature. There are bits and pieces of this hope within the earlier tracks: the descending vocal melody and fuzzed-out guitars in “Chicago Train,” the gleeful backing harmonies in “Albatross,” the Band of Horses-style verses of “And This Is What We Call Progress.” All of these pieces hint at a victory within the thick curtain of ambiguity.

It isn’t until the middle of the second to last track that the epiphany hits and all falls into place. We begin to understand the secrecy, the twisted landscapes that have brought us here and the journey begins to unravel, the processes begin to unfold, as pure as the driven snow. “Light Up the Night” builds slowly, like many of the tracks on The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, and like many of the tracks, there is a break midway through — an emotional turnaround. However, this particular crescendo unfolds with such precision and unleashes such a welcome release it truly puts the entire album into perspective.

“Light Up the Night” allows for the density and weight of the lofty concept that is The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, and gives the listener the ability to move through this process again and again. It shifts the album from good to great, and ensures that these northern neighbors will get the attention they deserve.