Four years before the arrival of 2007's indie-psych masterpiece, The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, the Montreal group self-released Volume 1. Almost completely performed and recorded by husband-and-wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas after the previous line-up of their band imploded, the album is far less musically diverse than Dark Horse, but no less mesmerizing. Inspired by krautrock, shoegazer pop and artsy Sonic Youth-style dissonance, there are none of the strings, horns, Beach Boys hooks or doo-wop harmonies that make Dark Horse so compelling, yet this early music never lacks character or wants for sonic embellishments.
Instead, the songs revel in their limitations, turning conventional rock instrumentation into hazy, sometimes urgent psychedelic journeys in which melody is always present, but clearly secondary to atmospheric exploration. The opener "Skyscraper Girls," with its single, picked notes and meditative tempo, is like a more experimental take on Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond"; "Thomasina" starts with rattling drums and angular post-punk riffs before gliding into a stream of gauzy guitars and gossamer vocals and "Life Rarely Begins with the Tungsten Film #1" layers echoing waves of feedback into a semi-turbulent castle in the clouds. They may have evolved into the dark horse of indie rock, but the Besnard Lakes clearly started out as innovative, unsung stargazers.