Review of Undersea EP by The Antlers

It's difficult to imagine what's going through Peter Silberman's seemingly troubled mind at the best of times, so there's little point in a half-arsed analysis from someone not schooled in such matters. Picking up the story in 2009 because that's where the vast majority will have first discovered The Antlers, third record 'Hospice' essentially telling the story of a doomed relationship via metaphorical references to terminal illness and last year's successor 'Burst Apart' conveying a similar message through observational pieces like 'I Don't Want Love', 'Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out' and 'Putting The Dog To Sleep', albeit from a slightly different angle musically. Where some of their peers blatantly fake and dramatise their way through paeans supposedly dedicated to their own inadequacies, The Antlers can never be accused of such heinous acts.

Aside from the bleak narrative and emotional attachment richly conveyed through Silberman's distinctive falsetto, what really sets The Antlers apart from those aforementioned contemporaries is an undeterred willingness to branch out into previously unexplored musical territories at the drop of a hat. All the way through from their earliest musings - the first three records essentially a solo vehicle for Silberman - up to 'Burst Apart' they've dabbled with new arrangements and sounds. Keyboard wizard Darby Cicci recently revealed that the band wouldn't be the same without his oscillator, explaining in full technical detail how many of their compositions are developed using this piece of apparatus.

So, having spent almost an entire twelve months on the road promoting 'Burst Apart', its should come as little surprise to anyone that the four tracks they have laid down during the interim "between records" period sound like nothing else The Antlers have previously recorded. Stretching just over twenty-two-and-a-half minutes, the 'Undersea' EP is essentially one side of an album in length, and judging by the epic nature of its densely crafted soundscapes, it may even offer a sneak preview as to where The Antlers are heading next.

Opener 'Drift Dive' should be familiar, having graced their set throughout this summer's many festival appearances. Whilst not altogether dissimilar to 'Parentheses' or 'Putting The Dog To Sleep' in structure, it still serves as a breathless introduction to the next phase of the band's exquisite ascent. Dripping with reverb and delay to create an atmospheric montage not a million miles away from early nineties underdogs Bark Psychosis or Disco Inferno, 'Drift Dive' is the sound of its creators floating in tranquil rather than troubled waters.

The eight-and-a-half minute colossus 'Endless Ladder' arguably represents their most ambitious statement of intent to date. Sprawling yet opulently mellow, it veers between the dark cauldron of 'Turn On The Bright Lights' Interpol and melodramatic post rock a la Godspeed! et al. Enriched by Silberman's desolate cries, its up there with 'Two' and 'Putting The Dog To Sleep' among The Antlers finest compositions to date.

After such lofty heights, both 'Crest' and 'Zelda' can only convey an "after the Lord Mayor's show" air about them, yet such is their masterful beauty, they're still head and shoulders above what The Antlers competition has to offer.

Of course when album number five does eventually land, Silberman, Cicci and fellow Antler Michael Lerner could be on an entirely different plane altogether. Nevertheless, if 'Undersea' is meant to be little more than a stop-gap bearing little resemblance to the band's next chapter, it's an incredible collection of songs its creators have every right to be justifiably proud of.


Dom Gourlay

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