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The Besnard Lakes, Cargo, London, March 31st 2010

April 2, 2010

Three years ago, I saw Montreal band The Besnard Lakes at Water Rats, which is one of London’s smallest venues. It was memorable partly for their successful efforts to get all six of them – with their instruments and equipment – onto the tiny stage. They’d just released their highly acclaimed second album The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse and we were keen to see how they could reproduce their hazy, pseudo-symphonic 70s rock music live.

Now though, with a new album The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, they’re down to a four-piece, fronted by founding husband-and-wife team Jace Lasek on guitar, vocals and MacBook Pro, and Olga Goreas on bass and vocals. I braved a trip to trendy venue Cargo to see if and how they’d changed. Cargo is one of those places that make me feel old – tinned beer, shouty young crowd taking mobile phone pictures of each other, and a crappy sound system.

Thankfully, The Besnard Lakes rose above the annoying environs and delivered a powerful set of droning, spacy songs with a real edge. In their previous incarnation, my main reservation about them was a certain lack of focus in their songs. There was a lot going on, but sometimes there was too much. Now with just four of them, the sound is more clearly defined (even when fuzzy) and harder. I liked it.

Through an absurd cloud of 70s dry ice, Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent was a powerful start to the set – high ethereal vocals, psychedelic guitar and swirling computer-driven space sounds. There is something quite shoegazy about them and on several occasions I was reminded of My Bloody Valentine and even the Cocteau Twins, but they also wisely get heavier from time to time. In fact, Olga’s bass playing is very ‘urban’ and dubby, and there’s a funky element to many of the songs that perhaps is missing on record.

Devastation is a great rock tune and they deliver it with vehemence and defiance, while latest single Albatross is a more laid-back piece of spaced-out drone that Kevin Shields would be proud of. You can download it for free here.

They’re not talkative bunch and at one point Jace apologises for resembling a child molester – in a certain light, he does look like he could be one of the Royal Tenenbaums… He also exhibits a few nervous twitches and likes fiddling with his Mac, but I guess geeks rule the world nowadays, so why not the stage at Cargo?

The climax was the dreamy highlight of their ….Dark Horse album, For Agent 13, sounding at times like a Badalamenti score for David Lynch. Here’s the ‘official’ video – I’m off to find some non-tinned beer.

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