The Canadians are getting smarter. Now, instead of collectives, they're forming supergroups. Still tumbling in the recent northern avalanche is the collabo between three popular peeps: Swan Lake, who are Bejar (Destroyer), Krug (Wolf Parade), and Mercer (Frog Eyes).
Combined, they've created an open, arctic record – borealic rock bounces off of ice walls among esoteric vocals – thriving on its detached array of instrumentation. On Beast Moans, tracks often swirl with reverb and thick, organ-laced post-alt in a more chaotic fashion than the material these three have previously worked on. While there are moments where the Beast almost loses its balance in the drifts, the album is forwardly progressive, and staggers comfortably through the storm, quite at home in the cold air.
The first track, "Widow's Walk" has blizzarded arpeggiations carpetting cold, surreal melodies, immediately distancing this album from more generic rock, as if to establish an aura of a supergroup playground with little regard to anything but open expression. "Nubile Days" is a needled jam with Krug's vocals, which include echoey "woah-oh-wo-ah-oh"s . It feeds off of quick acoustic slashes and a high, stabbing electric guitar, eventually driven by pounding percussive da-dums. "A Venue Called Rubella" alternates between swinging measures of guitar strums and stark, 4/4 drums with doubled-up vocals repeating the track's title. There are countless ethereal moments like these throughout Beast Moans.
"All Fires" is Krug-sung with infectious lyrics, and rolls on strummed isolation into a melancholy sing-a-long. It's pushed by a high-pitched organ and occasional tympanic knock, but is eerily reserved throughout. Its melodic sharpness is impossible to miss. The latter half of the album is less rhythmically-driven, and more of a feast of post-prog noise. "Are You Swimming In Her Pools?" is an exception, though – an acoustic jaunt with Doors-ish qualities. It, too, eventually dissolves into less structure, as Krug drops into a desperate strumfest.
This record, by name alone, will surely be hard to ignore. What really makes it noticeable, though, is the multi-layering of post-everything sounds into a stark contrast of what got each member here. It's not a warm album, and not like the trio had some hot cocoa by a fire and jammed in harmony. It's quite the opposite. It's like they started together with a ball of rope and ran in separate directions with an end in hand. Beast Moans unravels and often distances itself, but in an eccentrically intentional way. Clearly, the result of a supergroup out-thinking their boundaries.