Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Children Become Their Parents Become Their Children
Review of The Antlers' Hospice and giveaway
Ben RitterHospice, the much-praised new record from Brooklyn solo project turned trio The Antlers, is an exceedingly difficult listen for me. The album is built around a central narrative about a man losing a loved one to cancer and it’s so successful in evoking the emotions and atmosphere around that that when I listen to it, my teeth clench and chest tightens. It’s actually physically uncomfortable.
Hospice accomplishes this by means both obvious and not. To the former, the ghostly production with its hazy atmosphere and subtle whirs, clicks and swells in the background do a good job of evoking the sterile yet foreboding atmosphere of hospitals and cancer wards, where the whiff of hope is faint at best. And Peter Silberman’s voice, all wavering falsetto, is made for gut-wrenching whispers-to-screams though that dynamic is put into effect only sparingly and thus retains its effectiveness. In less capable hands, these tools could still get the desired emotional response, but only in a mechanical and manipulative sense – the way that even terrible suspense films can still make you jump as a reflex, not out of genuine fear. Hospice, though, possesses an intangible sense of genuineness that gives its strange, haunting beauty a real and painful weight and heft that’s tinged by all-too-brief moments of uplift. All the more remarkable considering that Silberman remains coy about how much of the story played out on the record is autobiographical and how much is fiction.
So while I don’t know if Silberman has gone through the experiences he details in such clarity, I can say that while the details and settings of his tale don’t fully line up with my own, the underlying emotions conveyed definitely resonate and often feel like touching – no, grabbing and squeezing – a raw nerve. Hospice captures the anxiety, anger, fear, denial and despair of being past hope and the bleak understanding that the only way out will come with a price that can’t be comprehended but must be paid. I did not enjoy listening to this record, nor did I enjoy writing this piece, but I think it helped.
There’s an Interface session with the band at Spinner, another video session at Laundromatinee and Exclaim has a very brief interview. The band are currently on tour and will be in Toronto next Thursday night, September 24, for a couple of performances – a free in-store at Criminal Records at 6PM and a headlining show at the Horseshoe later that night. Tickets are $10.50 in advance but courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got three pairs of passes to give away to the show. To enter email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see The Antlers” in the subject and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, September 22.
There’s a preview track available from Sufjan Stevens’ forthcoming multimedia project The BQE – out October 20 – and it’s a real departure, all shredding guitars, vocodered vocals and fat synths. No of course not, it’s orchestral and twinkly and pretty and has an excessively long title. Pure Sufjan. He’s at Lee’s Palace on October 1.
Chad Van Gaalen, who has a show at the Church Of The Redeemer this Saturday night – September 19 – has made an EP’s worth of outtakes and whatnot from Soft Airplane available for free download at softairplane.com. His Black Mold alter-ego has also just released a new video.
Exclaim talks to head Hidden Camera Joel Gibb about plans to take their new record Origin:Orphan, out Tuesday, to the stage. The theatre stage, not the concert stage. Though they’ll do that too come December 5 at the Opera House. Which despite the name is not an opera stage.
J Tillman may be the drummer for Fleet Foxes but he’s also an established solo artist and he will continue to establish his solo-ness with his new record Year In The Kingdom, which is out next week. He’ll be touring to support and has a date at the Horseshoe on November 11, tickets $13.50. And if you need more reason to attend, consider the fact that he is one funny dude. Seriously.
Denver Westword talks to The Depreciation Guild, who’ve been named as support for School Of Seven Bells at Lee’s Palace on October 15 along with Los Angeles’ Warpaint. It pains me to miss this show for Wilco, but sacrifices must be made.