Antlers – Undersea

January 01, 1970



The Antlers’ new album, Undersea,
is actually an EP, which is the direction (at least one direction) that music
is moving these days – and I like it. Because (1) who listens to full albums
anymore; and (2) the EP lends itself to certain sonic experimentation which, in
the case of an ambient indie-rock act like the Brooklyn-based group, is ideal.


Undersea is not a
departure for the trio (Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci, Michael Lerner); more
like a continuation. The high warble and metallic percussion of 2011 track
“Parentheses” (with Silberman’s haunting high vocal almost begging comparisons
to Radiohead) led the way to the four songs of Undersea. After the drama and spacey rush of that earlier tune, the
cool, slowed “Zelda” of Undersea feels like a sigh. It sounds like the water world retort to the other’s light
speed flight through the cosmos. But still, here are the layered keys, the
vocals shot through with reverb, and the electronics that buoy the music rather
than submerge it.


The Antlers started streaming tracks from Undersea last month, starting with
“Drift Drive.” Electronic washes and swooning lap-steel are beachy, though not
cloyingly so. This is not the sun-bleached and white-sand expanse of current
dream-pop acts. Early on, the track nods at glitchy beats (these quickly melt
into watery, lapping pulses); horns rise from and then are again absorbed by
the dusky atmosphere. Silberman’s vocal is dusky, too, swelling to its upper
register here and there in the most graceful of gestures.


“Crest” gives more of a platform for the lyrics – these ebb
against the shimmery backdrop of horns and keys, rich and emotive. “Float on
your back,” Silberman sings at the climax, repeating, “take me closer to truth,
but much, much further.” Here, in the starfield and soundscape, the sentiment
is a plea to a personal deity; the vastness of the universe juxtaposed with the
smallness of the individual. And yet the song is huge, riding a tide away from
dry land.


“Endless Ladder,” the longest track at over eight minutes,
eases in on a series of sounds that could be the culled-from-nature domain of
new age music. But what could easily dissolve into crickets and wind chimes
wends its way, instead, into the percussive splash and sway of a song that
straddles worlds between slow-core-reinvented Bossa Nova and organic
experimental rock. The melody is deconstructed yet its aura is felt, a ghost
hand, still warm, steering the drift and ebb. The lyrics, distorted but for the
repeated line “climbing higher,” become another instrument in the waves of
sound and earthy beats.


Each of Undersea‘s
parts – unique and of different moods – are standouts, both for their spirit of
melodic experimentation and for the near-visual soundscapes they build and
sustain. But as a whole, the EP is a beautiful daydream, lush and peaceful, an
encapsulated moment where time seems to expand continuously toward a distant


DOWNLOAD: “Crest,”
“Endless Ladder” ALLI MARSHALL





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