Nov 20, 2013 Web Exclusive
It's questionable whether or not there has ever been an album released so apropos of a band's name than this. Mid-tempo, middle of the road, and indeed middling, Antiphon nonetheless sounds aquatic and crystalline. Reverb ripples from the shimmering guitars and the percussion splashes pleasantly, but the album never manages to enchant in the manner of the previous album, 2010's folky, psychedelic The Courage of Others.
Antiphon is probably most noteworthy for being the first Midlake album since the departure last year of singer Tim Smith, with guitarist Eric Pulido stepping in to take over vocal duties here. Pulido and the rest of the band have spoken in interviews this year about the greater sense of democracy in the band and of how Antiphon is a chance for them to showcase their own ideas rather than work on Smith's.
In practice though, it seems this incarnation of Midlake's ideas aren't a million miles away from Smith's. There's probably a greater emphasis now on the "psych" side of the whole psych-folk thing, with a deep electric guitar sound on the likes of the title track and "Vale," and elsewhere far more woozy chimes and keys than the acoustic guitar we're accustomed to. Even so, the sound is still recognizably Midlake, albeit a slightly flattened version.
Previously the band has always produced a captivating, delicate sound, Smith's melodies at times sounding as though they were made of frost. Here, however, it's as though the usual template has been dropped from a great height and squelched onto the page. Everything feels uncertain, as though the band is looking to move forward onto something a bit more shoegaze but unwilling to part from the influence of Fairport Convention, and as such is a little confused. Nor is Pulido's voice anywhere near capable of holding up an album, sounding as it does like a cheap supermarket Dave Gahan. (www.midlake.net)
Author rating: 5.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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