Mar 06, 2017 Web Exclusive
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The cover of Impermanence is a blurry self-portrait of The Antlers' frontman Peter Silberman. Silberman lost hearing in his left ear a few months prior to the release of The Antlers' last album, 2014's Familiars. While he did slowly get better, when a musician loses his hearing, it might feel a little like a blurry self-portrait—a little like losing oneself. Impermanence is Silberman's tunnel exit from that experience. Instead of letting a soft coma form around himself, he increased the space, bestowing his crippling Jeff Buckley-esque cry with the power of an immense, silent gravity, allowing the absence to be the meaning.
Silberman opens the album with "Karuna" and the line "I'm disassembled piece by piece." As he begs "Can you hear me?" we imagine him unable to hear himself. He jumps, making the connection between the physical and existential, "Can you reach me?" In a beautiful turn of tide, bright guitar plucks and urgent taps fold like gentle waves rinsing rocks under Silberman's spindly echo. "Karuna" gongs the deserted sonic space, busting into an elegant drape, charging the thin seal of the universe, the place between the here and the infinite, the presence and the absence of everything. There is the sparkling "New York," traversing the familiar anew, and the tender reflection of "Gone Beyond," our heads still to the wall listening in. There is the aromatic "Maya"—the sound of glowing ukulele strings, every noise so close and delicate. In the reverberating "Ahimsa" the guitar forms puddles of sound, filling and pouring over. The album closes with the heartbreaking "Impermanence"—an orchestra of organ and accordion and guitar.
This is one of those potentially life-changing albums, with a depth traveling the prism from the physical to the mental to the emotional to the spiritual, but with no heavy hand, just a ton of thought, and a lot of loaded space and not knowing. Sometimes six songs is all it takes to say everything one can say, and sometimes it's all we need to hear. No wasted space, no wasted breath or tone. Just a six-song pilgrimage through human fragility. (www.petersilberman.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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