Marlowe / The Besnard Lakes O Patro Vys, Montreal QC - January 11, 2004

After a booming set by indie psychedelics the Besnard Lakes, Montreal's Marlowe struck a relatively subtle and composed chord, patiently uttering the predominantly mellow, ethereal sounds captured on their new album, He Is There and He's Funny. The record launch closed the six-year gap since the band's debut, Galax.Sea, and it seems this elusive sophomore disc has been worth waiting for. Led by founders and songwriters Alex Olsen (the band's mouthpiece) and guitarist Joseph Donovan (the latest addition to the Dears), and joined by new-ish rhythm and keyboard players, Marlowe has evolved from a space-age Britpop bachelor pad band to a modern post-pop act as obsessed with space and sonic minutia as with guitar pedals and pop melodies. So, in front of a full house on a frigid Sunday, the band climbed on stage and unfurled one of their sweet'n'sinister numbers, "Honey Bee," a song that builds on its whispers and coy guitar to a "sweet" mantra and honey-coated keyboard solo. Planète Sauvage, a surreal French cartoon from the '70s, played behind the stage throughout the set, providing suitably hot and cold, oddly organic visual fodder, and presumably taking pressure off Olsen, who lingered during the instrumental passages with percussive toys occasionally occupying her hands. But after the band's rich hums and strums occupied the spotlight, Olsen returned to centre stage with some celestial droning for "Roman Empire," a dense, magnetic epic recalling a time when Jason Pierce could move mountains with a few flicks of his wrist. Less weighty but equally stirring songs filled out the twilight of the set, which ended with "Labour Day," a humble anthem carried by an echoing guitar that gracefully darted and chimed to a close.