In seven years together, Brooklyn’s The Antlers have created a quiet revolution in thought and sound with their harrowing and often haunted tales of love unmoored, human frailty and emotional evisceration.
On Familiars, their fifth album, The Antlers, vocalist / guitarist Peter Silberman, multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci, and drummer Michael Lerner, have resumed the journey they began with 2009’s Hospice and continued over the next two albums Burst Apart and Undersea, which found the trio picking their way through a labyrinth of fear, doubt, love and loss against a backdrop of layered textural songs that were as deeply atmospheric as they were anthemic.
More hopeful in mood than its predecessors, the new album emanates a palpable release of despair and an almost operatic verve on nine songs that took shape over the past year and a half.
Familiars moves the Antlers’ emotional and spiritual odyssey further, alongside a palette of sounds that soar and retreat under a canopy of electronic trappings and the steady arrhythmic heartbeat of Lerner’s unnerving drumming. A choir of funereal horns function as a second voice across the songs.
“I wrote the trumpet arrangements as a sort of emotional antagonist,” explains Cicci.
“In some ways it acts as more of conscience to an otherwise omniscient narrator. Other times, it’s about giving a voice and personality to the dark, unsympathetic nature of reality, as an obstacle to the narrator’s quest for enlightenment.”
This duality is a persistent force throughout the record, guiding an exploration of the divided self and giving rise to the idea of a Familiar, rather like a guardian angel, your shadow, or your consciousness.
“If there was ever a time when you felt completely lost and you were able to appear to yourself, to give yourself advice and shed light on your situation, what would that be like?” asks Silberman.
Familiars not only shows what that would be like, it demonstrates how that’s achieved over t