The best way to quantify The Besnard Lakes’ fifth album is A Coliseum Complex Museum is to realize that they’ve distilled their sound down to its most Besnardian essence. A casual observer might misinterpret this as more of the same — and in many ways A Coliseum Complex Museum *is* similar to pass Besnard efforts, the band once again holding steady to their distinctly gauzy space rock sonic palette — but dismissing the record in this way ignores the sharper focus and refinements in The Besnard Lakes’ game. All of the band’s hallmarks are there: the pristine textures, the deliberate build-ups that pay off in explosive, technicolour crescendoes, and the dark, often otherwordly song subjects (this album appears to revolve around magic and mythical beasts, see “Necronomicon,” “The Bray Road Beast”).
It’s in the fine details, though, where The Besnards exceed the stiffer previous record, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO. Primary vocalist Jace Lasek seems, improbably, to be singing even higher than previously, which works to great effect when paired against the deliberate mechanical chug of standouts “Golden Lion” and “Towers Sent Her to Sheets of Sound.” The Besnards near-defiant devotion to the classic rock guitar solo also yields wonderful results on “Pressure of Our Plans” and the dramatically good closer “Tungsten 4: The Refugee.” The revelation on A Coliseum Complex Museum, though, just may be the use of Olga Goreas’ bass. Deployed with strategic effectiveness on “Nightengale,” “The Plain Moon” and “Golden Lion,” these insistent pulsing thrums magnificently set up the band’s most melodramatic moments.
All that said, what might be most intriguing about A Coliseum Complex Museum is its air of craftsmanship. The album feels like something pieced together thoughtfully and methodically, all with the grand intention of blowing our minds.