Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Anti-
Peter Silberman made a name for himself as the primary songwriter and vocalist for The Antlers, a band that was lauded for its ability to "emotionally destroy listeners." For many, it was the earnestness of Silberman's lyrics and the tenderness of his falsetto that made the band such a tour de force. Records like Hospice, Burst Apart and Familiars reaped in critical acclaim and helped build a healthy stable of devoted fans. But then Silberman lost his hearing.
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.
The title of Peter Silberman's debut solo record might very well be a reference to the recent history of his band. The Antlers are currently in the midst of a hiatus that did not begin with any kind of guaranteed return date;: 'we'll put this thing down for a little while and perhaps pick it up again some future morning that feels right', was the closest the Brooklyn trio came to the discussion of future plans when they went their separate ways in September of 2015. Impermanence would also be far from an unreasonable description of the group's stylistic journey in the more recent stages of their career.
T he arrangements of the songs on Impermanence, Brooklyn singer Peter Silberman's first solo album, are so minimal and sparse that they make his exquisite recordings with his group the Antlers seem positively rococo. On intimate tracks such as Maya and Karuna, Silberman's croon is accompanied by nothing more than the occasional strum of a guitar. His multi-octave voice is as intense as Jeff Buckley's or Anohni's, but it's vulnerable without being precious or cloying.
After releasing two albums that were essentially solo works, it wasn't until Peter Silberman recruited Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner that the Antlers (and Silberman himself) arguably found their sound: a slow, pretty burn. While the Brooklyn three-piece's past three LPs have all been positively accepted by the press and their growing fan base, Silberman has now bravely ventured out on his own once more to record Impermanence. The motivation behind Silberman's first solo album may have been born of necessity; the singer/guitarist recorded these eight tracks after suffering from hearing impairment that lead to temporary deafness in one ear.
Antlers leader Peter Silberman's new album Impermanence is so hushed and intimate that he might as well be whispering the songs directly to you. It's a quiet album by necessity: the singer developed a condition a few years ago that resulted in the temporary loss of hearing in one ear, and a painful sensitivity to everyday sounds, including his own voice, followed by the constant static of tinnitus. It became unbearable enough that he moved out of Brooklyn to upstate New York and the increased likelihood of occasional quiet.
"Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" and "Putting The Dog To Sleep", on titles alone, are hardly party starters. Hell, even the brass-laden songs on 2014's exemplary Familiars had more in common with the last post on the bugle than the uplifting fanfare of two-tone and ska. Yet, even by these dark standards, Silberman's foray into solo territory has enough emotional heft to rival anything in what has so far proven to be an incredibly eerie songbook.
Gradually working his way back from an unexpected hearing impairment, Peter Silberman's solo debut, Impermanence, examines the ephemeral nature of life. A few years prior, the Antlers frontman was beset by temporary hearing loss that led to extreme sound sensitivity, including his own vocalizations. Unable to sing or even speak regularly, Silberman left Brooklyn, retreating to the quietude of upstate New York in an effort to heal and reexamine his priorities and processes.
Between 2009 and 2014 Peter Silberman's band, the Antlers, released three stellar full-lengths: Hospice, Burst Apart, and Familiars. It could be argued that each album concerns trauma and recovery in some way, be it the emotional fallout of Hospice, the difficult journey back to trust on Burst Apart or the reconciliation chronicled throughout Familiars. Silberman's proper solo debut, Impermanence, again concerns itself with a meditation on a trauma, this time the very specific issue of Silberman's temporary hearing loss.
Peter Silberman headed upstate for the same reason most New Yorkers do: to get some damn peace and quiet. Problem is that he took all the noise with him. Though his work with the Antlers never had anyone confusing him with J Mascis, years of touring left Silberman with a debilitating hearing ailment that started as piercing tinnitus and evolved into a constant sound of "Niagara Falls in my head." Even if aural healing was Silberman's priority during his convalescence, there was no doubt what he was really working towards.
The quiet road to recovery. Almost losing your hearing will do a number on your psyche. Around the time Silberman was releasing Familiars with The Antlers, a frightening dilemma was unfolding. The sound of ringing and rushing water overtook the inner walls of his mind. It left him paralyzed with fear, often recoiling in pain at loud or abrasive noises.
Like Harold Pinter, John Cage and anyone who's ever lived in a flat below a two-year-old, Peter Silberman very much appreciates the power of silence these days. The Antlers' frontman wrote this six-track debut LP after suffering a period of tinnitus, sensitivity to noise and hearing loss. So instead of the rich brass that embellished his band's last album Familiars or the warm electronics of 2011's Burst Apart, this is based around stripped-down guitar and hushed, sometimes mantra-like intonations, with plenty of space.
For human nature, the concept of the void is something so terrifyingly ungraspable that to try and dodge it is the only possible way to even come close to dealing with it. From Aristotle to Mario Praz, the philosophy of horror vacui tells us that we must fill every single inch of empty space to avert facing that which is it both finite and infinite - unexplainable yet so brazenly there before our very eyes that the mind is shocked in its presence. Even the term "avoid" has an inherent etymological link to the obscure concept of emptiness.
The integrity of truth is currently under threat. We've landed ourselves in an unfortunate political and social landscape where the loudest voice in the room is often referenced as the truth regardless of its content. The Antlers' Peter Silberman, however, has found real truth in tortured silence. 'Impermanence' was written and recorded after Peter recovered from an extreme hearing impairment, which left the singer-songwriter deaf in one ear and painfully sensitive to everyday sounds.