3.5 stars (out of 4)
The Besnard Lakes’ perfectly, inscrutably named fourth studio album, “Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO” (Jagjaguwar), opens with a slow-motion avalanche of music. In the tradition of British shoegaze bands such as the late, great Slowdive, “46 Satires” begins with a distant-horizon keyboard drone, a lonely guitar line and a faraway voice. The Montreal quartet of Jace Lasek, Olga Goreas, Kevin Laing and Richard White are masters of the slow, patient build, as they turn the barely perceptible into a landslide over several minutes, then slowly retreat.
It sets the tone for an album that is not as hard-hitting as the most insistent tracks on its two immediate predecessors, “The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night” (2010) and “The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse” (2007). It’s slower, dreamier, with songs that prize atmosphere above immediacy.
For Lasek, the sonic template created by the “Surf’s Up”-era Beach Boys is never far away, and on the shimmering “The Specter” and “And Her Eyes were Painted Gold,” he tips the scales in that direction yet again, with wordless vocals swimming atop hazy keyboards. Goreas’ bass keeps everything on course; her melodic lines echo those played by ‘60s session great Carol Kaye on countless ‘60s Beach Boys classics.
“People of the Sticks” mixes in a heavier guitar sound that at times approximates a revving lawnmower, only to pierce through the oppression with an ascendant chorus. The band’s gift for melody also surfaces strikingly on “Colour Yr. Lights In,” which pits falsetto yearning against corrosive guitars, anchored again by another massive Goreas bass line. Besnard Lakes paint with sound – no wonder the near-ambient “Catalina” and the majestic “Alamogordo” suggest beautiful paintings more than songs.