“It’s a record about moving forward,” says Peter Silberman. “Hospice was kind of all-encompassing for a while and Burst Apart feels like us moving on from it. Not to abandon it, but to keep it in its place and figure out what’s next.”
Recording began in September 2010 and then continued over a five-month span at the Brooklyn-based band’s studio in Bushwick. Rather than bring in an outside collaborator, singer/guitarist Peter Silberman, drummer Michael Lerner, and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci decided to pool their considerable skills and produce the record entirely on their own.
“We realized that we didn’t need an outside producer or engineer to sound the way we wanted — we could produce and engineer it ourselves”,” says Cicci. “We took a five-year lease on a studio and pretty much treated it like a job for five months. We went to the studio in the morning and worked every day for 8 or 12 hours, just piecing it together.”
Two years spent touring behind Hospice had left its mark on The Antlers. In addition to bonding the trio as friends and colleagues, all three had developed an increased interest in electronic music, what Silberman refers to as “music that keeps moving and is kind of entrancing and expansive at the same time. Headphone music, music that keeps you going while you’re driving for 20 hours.” The band’s goal was to draw upon those sounds while still employing classic songwriting structures, synthesizing ostensibly artificial qualities into an organic pop template to evoke a full panoply of feeling.
“A lot of electronic music prides itself on its anti-human quality,” says Cicci, “where it chooses to pull emotion out rather than add emotion in. In that way, this record is definitely way far from being an electronic record.”
To that end, The Antlers avoided excessive programming, instead endeavoring to capture the symbiotic sound of a band that simply happens to employ synthesizers and other electronic instrumentation.
“There wasn’t a lot of looping or things like that,” Cicci says. “It felt like we recorded it live. We know how to make the sounds immediately, without so much processing or effects layered on everything. We can pretty much pull the sounds out of the equipment we already use.”
Though Silberman had previously released two solo works under the moniker of The Antlers, 2009’s Hospice represented the full-length debut of the trio as it currently stands. An elaborate song cycle dealing with life, death, and all the in-between, the album earned rapturous praise while also striking a deep chord in a generation of listeners. But in crafting its follow-up, The Antlers were anxious to avoid being branded by their previous album’s mournful content.
“It began to feel like we were being pigeonholed as a ‘sad band,’” Silberman says, “but we’re not particularly sad people. We have a lot of different feelings about things. There’s a whole spectrum of emotion to explore and I think that’s what we were trying to do on this record.”
“We wanted to make an honest record that we all felt we were putting our real selves into,” Lerner says. “It doesn’t have to be pure sorrow or unadulterated joy. If you’re feeling something, then we’re doing something right.”
Where Hospice was marked by its fixed narrative structure, Burst Apart is decidedly more elliptical and less lyrically baroque, in part to allow Silberman’s plaintive vocals to coalesce as but another element of the overall aural picture. He describes the album as simply “a collection of songs,” noting that “even though they all belong together and they’re all related, there wasn’t a kind of unifying concept.” None of which is to say Burst Apart is without cohesive thematic content.
“I think, in a weird way, it’s a record about trying to understand happiness,” Silberman says. “It’s also about change – making different decisions in your life and trying to understand yourself better, understanding things like confidence and self-destructive qualities. I think growing up would be the blanket idea.”
“It’s like a journey,” Cicci says. “Of going back home and finding what’s real in the world. The arc of the record follows the idea that contentment is only temporary, a fleeting emotion that will eventually bring you back home to something real.”
Imbued with seductive guitars, taut rhythms, and hypnagogic melodies, Burst Apart is simultaneously introspective and animated. “Parentheses” is constructed upon clattering beats and vertiginous dub tension, highlighted by Silberman’s keening falsetto, while “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” soars and swings, its joyous pop sensibility belying an undercurrent of Cronenbergian angst. In the end, the album arrives at a devastating and definitive crescendo with the stunning soul throwback, “Putting The Dog To Sleep.”
“I think that song really encapsulates what we were doing with this record,” Lerner says. “Soul music has a real purity, an honesty, a gut-wrenching quality.”
While The Antlers’ ardent passion for musical exploration resonates throughout the album, it expertly sustains a careful balance between the cerebral and the visceral. Epic in aspiration yet intimate at its core, Burst Apart is an astonishingly affective collection that offers an exhilarating glimpse into The Antlers’ incandescent heart.
“I think people will be sucked in,” Cicci says. “We want to draw people into the world of the record.”
“Our goal was a kind of hand-holding,” says Silberman. “To bring people with us as we navigate different waters of sound. To invite people into this world that we were working on as a group of three people enjoying what we were discovering about music and about songwriting and about making a record.”