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Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Antlers: Uprooted


THE ANTLERS: UPROOTED (2006)

1) First Field; 2) Keys; 3) Flash Floods Don't Retreat; 4) Nashua; 5) It Seems Easy; 6) Last Folk Song; 7) Stone­thrower; 8) Uprooted; 9) I'm Hibernating.

So this is 2006 and «The Antlers» is a multiple-personality-disorder-sort-of-name for just one per­son, New York State resident Peter Silberman, who, on this completely self-released album, plays guitar, dabbles with a bitty-bit of electronic effects and drum machines, sings, and weaves an atmosphere that, for some people (most of them probably fellow New York State residents) will be beautiful, for others will be ut­terly boring in the «oh no, not another indie dude with an ego» vein.

Uprooted is a very low-key affair, but it is also short and up to the point: only the title track is a six-minute sprawl whose carefully orchestrated build-up cannot quite compensate for being built on exactly one musical phrase. The rest are shorter things that, in true indie style, more frequently sound like raw demos than well-elaborated creations.

Melodically, there is nothing about these light-feathered folkish tunes that we have not heard a million times, but Uprooted was never about instrumental melody: Silberman's strength almost exclusively lies in his voice — take it away and he won't stand a chance, not even against the Lit­tle Mermaid. Think something like an Antony Hegarty, but without the operatic vibrato effect and much, much quieter, only rising beyond «barely audible» during very scant climactic moments; actually, there is more variation to Silberman's singing than to Hegarty's, since Peter allows him­self different modes, ranging from «generic folkster» to «uniquely recognizable», when he laun­ches into those silky-soft falsetto vocalizations that must have played such a significant role in endearing him with normally hard-hearted critics.

The artistic message that Silberman tries to convey is simple enough — typical introvert, melan­cholic, pessimistic, you-name-it fare — but the singing does the trick. Usually, that kind of sin­ging voice is reserved for tender ballads; Silberman uses it for chamber odes to his own (real or simulated, I don't care which) depression. 'Keys' is basically a mantra, most of it consisting of two elementary chants ("I can't sleep in the waiting room... I can't stand on only one leg"), but I can­not really remember anything that would sound quite like this: it's not much of an intrigue, yet when you realize it's coming from some out-of-nowhere dude who was recording it locked up in his bedroom in Brooklyn or something like that, it's a little more.

Some of this stuff is predictably Paul Simon-ish, but never totally, since all of Silberman's songs have to utilize his vocal advantage, and once they do, they're all his own. 'Stonethrower', for in­stance, begins like it could have easily fit on Parsley, Sage, but the falsetto choruses eventually lead you into an unpredictable direction. 'Flash Floods Don't Retreat' cooks up a bit of magic once the words are over and all that's left is an almost psychedelic woo-wooing (apparently, processed through some weird effect thing that makes it seem like it's coming from inside your head rather than the speakers). And so on. Nothing particularly memorable, for sure, but how many people these days can set out with an individual style already on their first release? Thus, thumbs up.


Check "Uprooted" (MP3) on Amazon

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