Burst Apart is the musical equivalent of a fly hitting your car windscreen while you're driving the motorway en-route to what is sure to be a great party with good mates.
For a very brief moment you notice it and look in slight wonderment at the splattered array of insect guts and juice. You consider the possibility that these random patterns might pass for art, but then it's quickly forgotten as you narrowly avoid ploughing into the car in front which has slowed down to avoid the M3/RS4/Imprezza (or suitably appointed car) weaving between lanes in a bid to appear ‘cool’.
Being almost Easy Listening you could have Burst Apart on your headphones while you stare up at wispy clouds and contemplate an insect’s place in the Universe. However, The Antlers probably/maybe could do so much better and more importantly so could you.
Further into the journey you become aware of the unsightly corpse and wash it off with a quick blast of water and swish of the wipers before continuing your journey without a second thought. While you’re at it you probably change the CD in the player (while maintaining due driving diligence, obviously) to something upbeat and lively to ‘get you in the mood’ for that party you’re heading to.
Presumably what The Antlers are aiming for is a blissed out dreamscape to soundtrack a day spent lying in the countryside sun. It is definitely not made to incite large (or small) crowds to unify as one sweaty pogoing mass and sing along too. So, on this one level it kinda works. Being almost Easy Listening you could have Burst Apart on your headphones while you stare up at wispy clouds and contemplate an insect’s place in the Universe. However, The Antlers probably/maybe could do so much better and more importantly so could you.
The pairing of situation and musical accompaniment works when you can hear a particular song and instantly picture the moment and kismet that joined you two. Memories are evoked, whether good, bad or ugly and you are transported temporarily back to that time and place. For example, one of my best moments of achieving this kind of amazing pairing between music, mood and location was early one morning driving along Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles with the morning Pacific mist slowly drawing back from the exquisitely landscaped coast while Pink Floyd’s 'Wish You Were Here' played.
It was truly magical and every time I put that record on now my mind wonders back to that glorious morning on the Western edge of the developed world. Burst Apart will simply be forgotten and won’t bring back any memories of location in this way, because there’s no real feeling or soul in the music.
Where The Antlers do succeed it is when they keep their introspective soundscapes undiluted by pleasantness
This is the biggest flaw, it seems that Peter Silberman, Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci have put this album together in the hope of becoming a sort of modern Mazzy Star, and the music represents this (see ‘I Don’t Want Love’, ‘No Widows’ and ‘Rolled Together’). However, the vocals are nowhere near convincing enough to portray any emotion deeper than mild joy or slight contentment. Maybe this is the unfortunate result of aiming for a more popular audience while still trying to please the cognoscenti of introspection who are looking for songs full of melancholic darkness made palatable by a nice melody.
‘Tiptoe’ experiments with horns that try to create an ambient backdrop but the song doesn’t fully commit and we’re left wanting more (or less in this case), and the casual listener won’t even be aware of the 2 minute track before the next “not quite there” song begins.
Where The Antlers do succeed it is when they keep their introspective soundscapes undiluted by pleasantness (see ‘Hounds’). If the mass market targeting through unwanted poppy hooks doesn’t immediately turn the listener away, the unintelligible vocals finish the job. Mixed so low that it’s difficult to pick out any lyrics or emotion the vocals work ‘against’ instead of ‘for’ the song and the listener is kept at arms length.
So, much like the fly hitting your windscreen that you wipe away, Burst Apart is definitely forgetful, but it does contain the odd moment that will make you think twice about defenstrating the next insect. That is, until you look at it for what it is and realise that; yes, it is worth removing from your remarkable vista of oncoming music.
Burst Apart by The Antlers is out now on Transgressive Records