Husband-and-wife Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas formed The Besnard Lakes in 2001 as a side project to their day job at Lasek’s Breakglass Studios, working on their debut album in their spare time. Vol. 1 was a solid introduction but one that sounded very much like a band who were finding their feet. Its austere production and post-rock style was far from the grand amalgamation of dream, prog and space rock heard on later releases. Lasek’s Beach Boys-style falsetto was also yet to be unleashed, instead featuring as a distant mumble underneath the music.
It took them almost four years to produce a follow-up, with …Are the Dark Horse arriving in early 2007. It was well worth the wait, heralding the arrival of a fuller rock sound that was lushly produced, featuring the addition of power chords, strings, electronics and Lasek’s gorgeous falsetto. A shift towards a more ambitious, prog-influenced sound could be heard on 2010’s …Are the Roaring Night, with bigger beats and meatier guitars. Then came their dreamier and hazier fourth album, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO, in 2013 which featured Goreas’ sweet vocals more prominently, tipping off a run of three great albums in a row.
Their latest and fifth album, A Coliseum Complex Museum, continues the pattern of releasing an album about every three years. They take a more straight forward rock approach this time around, but without abandoning the elements of dream, prog and space rock that influenced their previous three albums. The more direct approach is also mirrored in the production, which compared to past releases sees Lasek going for a slightly more stripped back sound. The difference on their previous full-length releases was that each sounded like a band evolving, whereas on this occasion they sound like a band that are no longer moving forward.
Lead single “Golden Lion” is the most notable track here, with its big beat and steady groove, but besides that the album doesn’t offer very much in the way of great moments. There are several nice grooves, like on the subdued “Necronomicon” and the driving “Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound”, as well as some nice solos too, like on the slow building opener “The Bray Road Beast” and the groove heavy closer “Tungsten 4: The Refugee”. Overall, A Coliseum Complex Museum has very few bad moments, but the material here just isn’t on the same level as that heard on their previous three albums. This leaves them sounding a little bit stagnant and repeating the same old tricks.
Lasek has done an excellent job at producing the bands work in-house since 2007’s …Are the Dark Horse, but if A Coliseum Complex Museum says anything it’s that it may be time to consider freshening things up a bit by seeking outside assistance, a different pair of ears. Someone like Dave Fridmann, who has worked with bands which share similar qualities like Mercury Rev, Low and The Flaming Lips, would be a very good fit. Or perhaps someone a little bit more leftfield is what’s needed? Either way, it feels like change is required in order to make album number six a more exciting prospect.
Released: 22 January 2016
Producer: Jace Lasek
Genres: Alternative/Indie Rock; Dream Pop; Space/Psych Rock
Rating: Strong 6 to Light 7