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November 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Elegant dream-pop from Canada’s Besnard Lakes | Concert preview

The Besnard Lakes

The Besnard Lakes, from Montréal, perform live Tuesday at The Crocodile in Seattle. Photo by Jessica Eaton.

A Montréal-based group led by a husband and wife, given to cinematic arrangements and yearning melodies, recently released its fourth album — and it’s a masterpiece.

The Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor,” right? Wrong.

The artists in question are The Besnard Lakes, who play Seattle’s Crocodile Tuesday; the record, “Until In Excess, Imperceptible U.F.O.”

“We don’t sound like The Arcade Fire,” says co-founder Jace Lasek, speaking via telephone from a Chicago hotel. “I don’t think we’d receive that comparison if we weren’t from Montréal.”

He has a point — The Besnard Lakes’ lyrical bent is more personal than populist, its classic-rock spirit guide Brian Wilson, not Bruce Springsteen.

Still, geography aside, there’s another similarity — Lasek and his partner, Olga Goreas, think big.

The duo, who produce, compose, and play numerous instruments, proved this on their last offering, 2010’s slow-building, high-atmosphere “The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night.” With “U.F.O.,” they’ve outdone themselves — but it wasn’t easy.

“This album took some time,” Lasek explains. “It was written in spurts, and we threw a lot away. We were dealing with some painful, real-life situations. Olga’s dad died, which was traumatic for her… she’s actually singing about him in some of the songs.

“It’s the most emotional record we’ve ever done.”

Although it was made under duress, “U.F.O.” doesn’t sound overtly downcast. Goreas and Lasek switch off singing, lending the material a conversational quality. Her gauzy, honeyed lilt summons memories of 1980s dream-popsters The Cocteau Twins, while his inquisitive, elaborate vocal lines are “Pet Sounds”-inspired auditory embraces.

The eight-song LP’s clear standout, intoxicating single “People of the Sticks” (listen), comes early, but the whole record flows beautifully — a callback to the album-oriented progressive rock of the ‘70s.

Burning bright with late-night ambience, it’s a compositional achievement and an audiophile’s dream, reaffirming The Besnard Lakes as a band of much substance — and a secret too well-kept.

Asked again about that other, more famous Montréal group, Lasek sighs. “People just like to make grand, sweeping statements, like ‘Seattle is grunge, Montréal is The Arcade Fire and [post-rockers] Godspeed You! Black Emperor.’

“Really, our band and the people we run with are just doing what they’re passionate about… making highly experimental music, without compromise. There are very few phony bands that come out of Montréal. It’s an honest movement, and that makes me proud.”

The Besnard Lakes’ choice of openers reflects this collective mindset. Joining them Tuesday are fellow Québécois Elephant Stone — a gang of worldly shoegazers whose self-titled 2013 LP (listen) marries vintage R.E.M. jangle to virtuosic sitar shredding.

The Besnard Lakes, Elephant Stone, Kingdom of the Holy Sun
8 p.m. Tuesday at The Crocodile, 2200 2nd Ave., Seattle; $11 (206-441-4618 or thecrocodile.com)

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: Canada, post-rock, psychedelic

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