The Antlers, ‘Undersea’ – Album Review
The newest offering from the Antlers is as unassuming as it is counterintuitive. That a band that established itself with two albums of urgent domestic conversationals (those being 2009's 'Hospice' and 2011's 'Burst Apart') would next create an aquatically themed four-song EP is, to say the least, surprising, but not nearly so much as the realization that 'Undersea' is really, really good.
Departing from the indie folk for something more cosmic along the line of Spiritualized, frontman Peter Silberman and Co. have crafted a water-based ecosystem inviting the listener to daydream and wander.
As we've noted, the opening 'Drift Dive' has a certain subtle shimmer. Silberman deftly moves into a sweet falsetto, describing "a million pieces in a million places," with gentle horns shining over the moonlit composition.
'Endless Ladder' is the most conventionally pop of the collection (and its greatest highlight), a J Spaceman-level bliss-out complete with squeaky robotic and bubbling brook sound effects, making a listen equally smiley and soporific. Distant guitars float over stepladder bass lines, leaving the listener languid and adrift in what is a slowly building and oddly comforting eight and a half minutes.
The third track takes on a film noir slink, with a black and white brass section inducing hypnosis. "Wade underwater with me, spin until you’re half asleep," Silberman suggests in a strange kind of seduction. 'Crest' -- the emotional low point of the EP, all wanting and desires unfulfilled -- is quizzically fulfilling.
The closer 'Zelda' recovers some of that 'Hospice' intimacy that made you fall in love with the band in the first place: "You asked me to wake you if I woke up before you," Silberman says. "I'm here to tell you we're not awake yet." Isn't it that dreams feel so underwater, a reality familiar but so different than waking (dry?) life? The poetics are interposed with cotton candy Pink Floyd sci-fi synths, soft sounds that together build a despondent tension, Silberman whispering that "it's just not important, the things we suffer / There isn't a test involved." A gathering of oooo-ooos send us out of our watery voyage, one that's well worth revisiting.
While it's nothing like you'd expect -- unless you looked at the album cover -- 'Undersea' is well worth wading into.