Music Reviews

The Antlers Undersea

(Anti-) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

“An EP in length, but well beyond that in scope,” The Antlers said of Undersea. They are not wrong, packing in a plethora of new songwriting ideas. While it feels like the least conceptually unified of The Antlers’ releases since becoming a trio, it certainly feels like the dive into the unknown that the title promises, be it in sound and form.

Burst Apart was largely marked by Peter Silberman’s more powerful voice and confident delivery, and by the more ambient, reverb-drenched engineering. Undersea lacks a change you can mark as easily, as the underwater sound has been named but not changed all that much. Silberman, meanwhile, has maintained his power but his delivery falls somewhere between where it did Hospice or Burst Apart, more reminiscent of the material he produced before The Antlers became a trio. The lyrics are harder to discern, but his delivery might be the most consistently emotive it has ever been.

All this relatively minor but definitely noticeable reworking results in music that sounds exactly like The Antlers and yet also sounds unlike any of their past songs. It may not sound terribly new, but you’ll have a hard time placing which song it sounds like, or even which album it would fit onto. Better yet, Undersea does indeed progress like a musical interpretation of such poetic subject matter would, beginning with shimmering, hopeful guitars on Drift Dive and entering a hypnotic rhythm on the noticeably Hospice-y Endless Ladder. That track, at over eight minutes, becomes a bit repetitive both lyrically and musically, but it is also beautiful in a way that few Antlers tracks are; that is, devoid of sadness but no less enchanting.  Careful repetition and ambient rhythms are a big part of Undersea, more so than anywhere else in the Antlers catalog. Indeed, it feels like an album dominated by Darby Cicci’s textures far more than by Silberman’s voice.

Crest makes far more use of electronics and sampling than the first two tracks on the EP. Here, they push into the foreground, creating a hook instead of being an interesting idea that feels unexplored. That Crest also feels like the weakest song on the album is a bit alarming if this is the direction The Antlers wish to push, but it’s only one song, and it’s not a bad one at that. Zelda, on the other hand, feels like the most realized track. Like any Antlers closer, it’s tragic from the first line, building to an emotional climax as Silberman takes full control again to push the point home. He remains a bit harder to understand, but the electronic sampling is finally starting to click. Zelda feels like a resolution, and it provides an admirable bookend to an EP that occasionally gets carried away in adventure.

Undersea feels like The Antlers most democratic effort by a large margin, and so it is understandably their most varied, sonically and in terms of quality. Still, for a work of just 23 minutes, that is exactly what we should have hoped for. With two very different but magnificent LPs, an EP being used to explore and experiment and still come out positively is a signal of fantastic things to come by Brooklyn’s most tragic band.