An indie supergroup trio of sorts, Swan Lake is comprised of Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown), and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes). The resulting album is an odd mixture of synths, trading-places vocals, ramshackle drumming, and instrumentation that sometimes sounds like it's being played in three separate rooms without the benefit of any one player being able to watch the other. It's definitely about as disjointed as they come, and while that loose style seems to invigorate some tracks, it makes for a release that's downright hard to listen to in places.
The album opens on an awkward step with "Widow's Walk" as the synth and guitar track swerves like it's going to head completely off the rails. The expressive, curling vocals (and crazy background chorus by the other two) by Bejar pull it together in places, but the four minute track shoots off into so many random moments that it feels much longer than its running length. That pattern is one that many of the songs on the release fall into, and the bizarre production doesn't really seem to help matters. Considering the singers involved, it's just plain odd (and frustrating) that the vocals are often buried while more rough instrumentation is brought to the front.
Some of the more effective songs on the album still keep their rough feel, but also seem to pull together a bit more focus. "A Venue Called Rubella" features clanging piano, rough-edged guitar, banging percussion, and synths all piled into a murky mix, but Krug and Bejar trade off vocal duties well in the hook-filled track. "All Fires" strips things back for one of the more subtle pieces on the entire album, and it's a welcome sound as Krug takes lead over some simple guitar and synth instrumentation that's close to heartbreaking.
Beast Moans ends up being a rather fitting title for the somewhat awkward sounding album from the trio. All three singer/songwriters seem to be exorcising some demons on the release that simply wouldn't fit into the oeuvre of their other groups. For every track like the soaring and engaging "Petersburg, Liberty Theater, 1914," there's another head-scratcher like the ultra-rough and clunky "The Partisan But He's Got To Know." Considering the people involved, the sum isn't exactly greater than the parts, but if you enjoy any of the three artists involved, it will most likely still provide some moments of enjoyment.