I have scored a hat trick, hit the treble twenty, gone threefold, bagged a triple. I naturally talk of three of a kind which is completed with todays review of somewhat distantly festive The Antler’s ‘Familiars’. What, you may ask, is he jabbering about. Good question. The topic in question is records with enormous production and arrangements and attention to detail. I promise you we will go on a different path soon but a promise is a promise and I promised my son I would review this record which he very kindly gave last Christmas. What taste!
The Antlers are a New York based band and Familiars is their 5th album although as a band it is their 3rd. The first 2 albums were solo efforts by singer Peter Silberman. He then started playing with Michael Lerner on drums and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and broke with ‘Hospice’ in 2009. I bought this record for the same son a good few years ago and then 2012’s ‘Burst Apart’ I bought for myself. As you can see we really like this band. We have history.
This is another precise record. My wife confidently describes it as suicide music but us boys need a bit of that. We love a bit of emotion as long as it is only in music and we don’t have to actually live it or respond appropriately. The pair of us were a bit of a slobbery mess when we saw them last summer. It is characterised by vocal gymnastics from Silberman in that he soars over several octaves right up to breathy falsetto oozing emotion, Cicci’s lush synthesiser and trumpet work and Lerners solid brush heavy drums.
This album seems to be a record of places. Buildings, houses, hotels, refuges, canyons and wells all feature but they start off in the grandest of all buildings. ‘Palace’ sets the emotional tone of this record with melodic piano and fairly soon Silbermans voice is soaring among the stars and settling in secret places and Cicci’s trumpet punctuates from across the sierra. Silberman appears to sing about supporting someone through break up but as with Silberman, he is difficult to follow at times. Hospice gives you a little idea of where his mind goes.
After such a heart stopping start ‘Doppelganger’ takes us to altogether more sinister scenes as he describes mounting paranoia ‘Do you hear the gentle tapping?’ he sings until he is ‘muted by the horror’. It sounds rather as if this song could have been conceived behind the radiator in ‘Eraserhead’. The trumpet is shoved so far in the reverb cabinet it emanates from the plumbing itself.
Intruder demonstrates the detail involved in this record. There is always Silbermans immaculate pitch and impressive range but in among it one hears, vibes maybe, Tibetan Bowls perhaps. Always there are sweeping synthesisers chords and lonely trumpet resonating on a nearby hillside.
The big epic of this record is Revisited which appears (I’m only guessing here) to be a story of break up set as a kind of yard sale. Sorry. I did tell you I was guessing here. Silberman is not keen on giving you too many clues. ‘when unfamiliar faces came to shop at our old house’. ‘I let them strip your mausoleum so nothing was left’. See what I mean.
Parade and Surrender are a perfect pair of emotional roller coaster songs and with Palace hit the three real stand out songs. I’ve an idea that Parade is about relationships but I couldn’t be sure but the delicious sweep from bridge to verse is pure genius. Surrender sees them enter almost jazz territory with smoochie trumpet and jazzy brushes. Again the relationship thing is (probably) examined with a great repeated couplet ‘we’ll step inside a world far less demanding, When we allow for something less commanding’
This is another record that demands attention and careful listening to fully appreciate the depth and breath of their unique sound. We saw them at the Green Man Festival last year and the sound was so much better than any band that played there. They’ve clearly spent years trying to perfect the audioscape and their complicated recorded sound is captured perfectly live. They really care so please give The Antlers a bit of a spin. You could take any album from Hospice forwards and get a really good idea of where they come from but I think this album is perhaps the easiest to like with the emotional feel and the winning melodic songs. Try the opener!