Bands talk a lot of shit. Especially about their latest release.
PR talk a lot of shit. Journalists talk a lot of shit. Reviewers talk a lot of shit. I talk a lot of shit.
Though when I quote the band in their description of this EP as;
“the serenity of drifting off to sleep or sinking to the bottom of the ocean”
Neither are the band talking nor is my use of this quote – a lot of shit. Quite the opposite in fact, because it is not often that a band actually nail the description of the sound of their latest release, but The Antlers actually have. Perhaps ‘serenity’ is a bit strong, but if you’re creating sound-bites you’ve got to go for the jugular.
Undersea, as the EP is appropriately called, is The Antlers’ follow up to last year’s Burst Apart album and a stopgap until the next album. Whenever that might be. And besides being appropriately titled and matching its preliminary description, it’s a good indicator of where the band are right now and where they might go on a new full length; both musically and lyrically.
You may recall I briefly touched upon these in one of the most recent of my recommended listening features. Said feature you can check out here, for a little about the band and some other great bands worth looking into. In that feature I touched upon how The Antlers was initially formed as the solo output of Peter Silberman; singer/guitarist/main creative force. Since the introduction of Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci though The Antlers have steadily become a fully formed unit.
That said though, as main songwriter Peter Silberman has remained the key component of the band, especially lyrically. It’s clear from the listening to the band’s back catalogue that The Antlers has been very cathartic for him. No clearer than it is on Hospice and Burst Apart. With those releases behind The Antlers now, it does seem that Silberman has aired a lot of his demons, allowing Undersea to not only be a more band fuelled creation but lyrically for it to expand its horizons; taking in the here and now, even the future, as opposed to the emotional damage of the past.
Drift Dive starts the EP, exactly as was promised. Slowly fading in on a beach like guitar melody, flashback harp flutters, sleepy brass and electronic layers that gradually fill out the song like those half dreams taking over as you struggle to stay awake. It builds and peaks just as you fall back in slow motion; unconscious before you reach the pillow and the ocean of your bed.
Endless Ladder starts where Drift Dive left you, but you’re somehow unsure whether you are asleep. Its hypnotic and repetitive beginnings bring to mind tired eyes opening and closing, as you lose the battle against slumber during some overtired, overbored day-or-night dream during one of life’s more mundane moments of functionality. If Drift Drive took you to the ocean, Endless Ladder leaves you lying on its edge as the waves slowly, but surely, wash over you and pull you in.
When Crest starts your eyes have opened and your surroundings are new; alien. You’re at the bottom of the sea and you aren’t floating upwards; you’re staying down but you’re not drowning. Moving in slow motion you start to see everything around you, neon life of the seabed. This song is its soundtrack, slow and brooding like the ocean floor but filled with the hypnotic seduction of the vividly coloured unknown, ocean creatures. With the brass and the slow electronic pulses it verges on sexy. Perhaps the strongest and most instant song on the EP.
With Zelda the seabed takes a more solitary and solemn turn, lost and confused the nightlife of ocean floor has faded. The density of the water becomes more apparent with bluesy guitar, thick layers of an electronic sound palette, disappearing brass sounds and sparse vocals.
Musically the EP really is under the sea lost in a dream. Though the lyrics touch upon questions of reality, alternate realities and of course the trials of separation, with this release at least they are not the focal point. With Silberman taking on a less is more view to his lyrics, they’re abstract and few and far between, with the textures of the songs themselves taking centre stage. It’s not an instant listening experience but it is certainly immersive, and a good sign of where the band will go from here.