Review Summary: Take the plunge...
It’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.
Extended plays never seem to get the respect that full-length albums do, but this outing is a rare exception. The Antlers are clicking on all cylinders at this point in their career, and right now I’d be hard pressed to imagine anything that they can’t do. There is no atmosphere they are incapable of concocting, no high note Silberman can’t reach, and no emotion that can’t be eloquently conveyed. The idea of taking an album and giving it a theme is nothing new to The Antlers, but Undersea
just might be their most aggressive creative pursuit yet. On an ambitious journey that would render most bands helpless, they have effortlessly prevailed.