Review : The Antlers - Undersea
PastemagazineOn Burst Apart, their fourth album in a string of critically worshipped albums, Brooklyn trio The Antlers officially launched into space. Gone were the spastic noise and over-reaching lyrical concepts that plagued their otherwise lovely breakout, Hospice: “Indie-rock” was no longer a fitting genre tag for a band who put so much emphasis on glistening electronic ambience and jazzy, echoing texture.
Undersea, their lavishly produced new EP, finds the band spinning even further into orbit. Inhumanly gorgeous opener “Drift Drive” is an experience best suited for headphones: It spirals its way out of the speakers in a luxurious calm—an alien funeral ballad beamed in from another galaxy. The wash of sound is so magnificent, it’s easy to miss all the details: Darby Cicci’s decaying trumpet lines, the echoing harps, the sci-fi synth whooshes, the ricocheting piano chords. On the droning, eight-minute “Endless Ladder,” guitars and synths and wordless coos disintegrate into slow-motion colors and shapes. Frontman Peter Silberman’s been labeled a Jeff Buckley clone too many times to count, but on the trip-hop space-jazz of “Crest,” he literally seems to inhabit the guy’s body, beaming in a Grace-full falsetto moan over a simmering landscape of muted trumpets and synth loops....full text
MuzikdizcoveryThe Antlers had already created two near masterpieces with the conceptual and morbid Hospice and the atmospheric, free flowing, and nostalgic Burst Apart. Hospice and Burst Apart were almost total opposites: the character on Hospice is willing to "put bullets inside of himself" for love while the character on Burst Apart screams about how he "doesn't want love," Hospice was a lo-fi, distorted, and depressing love story, while Burst Apart was an electric, electronic, and aggressive collection of "stoner songs," and while Hospice was a brief conceptually chapter book like summarization of everything that we define as "heartbreaking," Burst Apart seemed to be a beautiful, brilliant, and alms classic summarization of what we expect "joyful indifference to sound like." Even though both albums were complete opposites in sound, story, flow and feel, they were still both near masterpieces and superb albums in general. Because of this it became clear to me that The Antlers could take just about any theme, sound, or feel they wanted and turn it into a superb album. But even I didn't expect the greatness that is Undersea....
Instead of making something totally different from Hospice and Burst Apart, The Antlers took an even more bold and innovative step and decided to combine the sounds, themes, and ideas from both of their previous albums on Undersea. Undersea is a beautiful and effortless combination of the desperate themes, chapter book like conceptual stories, and vivid and detailed lyrics of Hospice with the atmospheric soundscapes, free flowing nature and the magnificent apathy of Burst Apart. The first thing the album does brilliantly is present a bold fictional story and make us feel like we are actually playing a major part in the story. Undersea is The Antlers original story of a town covered in an almost Biblical flood overnight and the characters reaction to waking up under these new and deep waters. The album is about what the band calls suspension: the characters are suspended from their normal everyday actions, they are suspended from their normal dreams and loves, they are suspended from the colors of everyday life, and they are suspended from maybe even the possibility of life. But in this suspension they find some sort of nostalgic peace in knowing that they don't have to answer the most pressing questions of life, knowing that they don't have to struggle anymore, and knowing that the pain of day-to-day life is finally over. At the end of the struggle the main characters don't think of the bottom of the ocean as a depressing event or something even close to a positive event, but an enlightening event that puts all their everyday actions, loves, dreams and favorite colors in nature in a perspective that is literary breathtaking. In the same way the lo-fi instrumentation and emotional lyrics of Hospice made us feel like we were crying by the deathbed of the love of our life, the laid back, jazzy, and atmospheric instrumentation and vivid imagery of Undersea make us feel like we are actually drowning in a flood of weightless perspective that ends with us being something that we have never really been: content....full text
SputnikmusicIt’s an idea that has been dwelling in my mind for a while now, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: The Antlers are the newest atmospheric masterminds of our generation. They still have a long way to go legacy-wise, but they have a serious chance to enter the Radiohead arena of ambient alt-rock, and that’s saying quite a bit. Right now, you could even argue that nobody does it better by citing Hospice’s unmatched-in-today’s-music profundity or Burst Apart’s liberating flow. All that promise packed into such a young career is why an album – even though it is only an EP – has the potential to really bolster The Antler’s status as a prominent band within their genre. Undersea not only upholds the excellence that we have come to expect from Silberman and company, but it also makes enormous strides ambitiously and conceptually. If there’s one thing The Antlers have been over the past few years, it is fluid – and this EP follows suit with a completely natural evolution in sound that fuses the best traits of their first few works to form something decidedly hushed but irrefutably epic.
Much like the full-length releases that preceded it, Undersea is a work that prides itself on setting a tone. Some of the band’s earliest endeavors anchored their meaning to sullen topics such as cancer. 2011’s Burst Apart truly was a departure; its dazzling guitars and effervescent keyboards opening up the hazy clouds of yore and giving way to an illuminated night sky. Just as we thought that The Antlers might be ready to venture into happier territories, Undersea takes a defiant plunge right back into the murky depths of Hospice – although not without taking a few of Burst Apart’s qualities with it. This year’s EP, while something of a fusion between all past Antlers’ styles, is also a progression. The lazed falsetto and meandering tempos still guide every song through a dream-like state, but we are also introduced to jazz influences and electronic undertones that enable the band to boast continual growth. ‘Drift Dive’ is the best example of The Antlers’ electronic infusion, drenching their traditional sound in echoes, offset beats, and reverb – although it is hardly drowning in a digital sea. The jazzy vibe can also be felt immediately, although its presence can’t be fully appreciated until the bluesy horns that construct a rather elegant canvas for ‘Crest’. The eight and a half minute ‘Endless Ladder’ is quite possibly one of the most soothing tracks you will listen to all year, enveloping your senses just as the ocean waters would swallow a grain of sand into its sprawling, shimmering fields of blue. ‘Zelda’ illustrates Peter Silberman at the top of his game (is he ever anywhere else?) along with an encore of everything encountered during the EP, from regal sounding horns to gradually descending electronic effects that create a sinking sensation. By the time Undersea has concluded, it is quite possible that you will have to knock the water out of your ears....full text
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