Brooklyn trio The Antlers’ eye-opening set at this summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival was a grand entrance for a relatively new band playing with old tricks. Epic sound, booming and triumphant, explosive and theatrical. The group, led by Peter Silberman, doesn’t shy away from massive opuses or emotive sprawls; the atmosphere created, while devastating and somber, is also rich with mountainous tones and explosive songwriting devices. With “Hospice,” the band’s new full-length record, The Antlers shun common trends and offer a complete collection of music, a true album, in the same vein that Radiohead did with “OK Computer” or Neutral Milk Hotel with “The Aeroplane Over the Sea.” There are themes, to be sure—with “Hospice,” there’s death and longing, relationship mourning, hospitals and cancer and grief—but not necessarily a narrative story. The Antlers create mood with stark imagery and on-the-nose bleakness. Sound like fun or what?
“Hospice” is an album to be devoured straight through in one sitting. Unlike most records made these days—hodgepodges of mp3s slammed together rather arbitrarily—this is an album that lacks standout tracks. And if taken and consumed as one large piece of music, it’s extraordinary.
That effect was intentional. “Yeah, absolutely,” says multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci. “It wasn’t a sort of, anti-pop music or anything, but the records we listened to most are the ones that are cohesive, that have a story, or have a theme of sorts, an over-arcing narrative. Not necessarily anything literal, but something that you listen to from start to finish… Just put it on and leave it on. It’s hard to make meaningful music in four-minute structures of time. I think it takes forty-five minutes to make something that resonates and [one can] digest as a whole.”
The Antlers are in the midst of some serious hype. With the breathtaking Pitchfork fest appearance (and a gushing record review from the site itself), the band surely has a lot riding on the next few months, which sees it touring the States and heading overseas for the first time. “I think a lot of the pressure we feel is self-imposed,” Cicci says, “to keep being bigger and bigger and kind of live up to the hype. You can’t really live up to hype, though. We’re just trying to keep all of the aesthetics in line.”
“Hospice” has a dreamy, almost sleepy presence while, in turn, the band’s live show is somewhat raucous. “I’ve always thought that a live show and a recorded record are two totally different mediums, like films to television or to stage plays,” Cicci says. “Things work on a record if you’re alone with it on headphones, and things work in live shows because you can be blown away by a sheer intensity of sound that you can never transfer to a recording. It’s harder to hear lyrics live, so the goal was to transfer the emotion and intensity and layers of dynamics to the stage—to transfer the themes of the songs to sound rather than story. We keep constantly rearranging things, making them bigger and louder.” (Tom Lynch)
The Antlers play September 21 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North, (773)278-6600, at 8:30pm. $10.