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The Antlers

(together) EP

(Frenchkiss; US: 22 Nov 2011; UK: Import)

The Antler’s latest release, the (together) EP, consists mainly of alternate versions and remixes of songs from Burst Apart, along with one bonus track and a cover. Most of the interest in this EP lies in the alternative versions of album tracks, which show two sides of lead singer Peter Silberman and company: long-winded and spare.

The EP begins and ends with two different alternate versions of “Parentheses:” one featuring Bear in Heaven, and the other the PVT remix. The version featuring Bear in Heaven is a whopping 18 minutes and 16 seconds; it’s certainly a brave way to end a record. If the original “Parentheses” was your jam and you want to hear it stretched out almost to its breaking point (or possibly, past that) with (extended) instrumental passages appended, this may be the cathartic fix of the Antlers that you require. The band plays up the swirling parts, and Silberman’s falsetto becomes even more unnatural, resembling a howl that might terrify you if you were out for a midnight stroll on an empty moor. If, instead, you think that 18 minutes of this sounds aimless or boring, then I would stick to the PVT remix. The original “Parentheses” has mean guitar mixed into the swirling passages, held together by a percussive shuffle. The remix throws those high vocals into oscillating synths, more straightforward drumming and a prominent bass line. It’s more like off kilter synth funk – the menacing guitar riff disappears altogether, but the song doesn’t lose its sense of threat.

The two different takes on “Parentheses” capture the approach to most of the alternate versions. The Antlers either play things out to the max or show more bare-bones approaches to their album tracks. “French Exit” is one of the funkier songs on Burst Apart. The SNRF version seems faster, it strips away the funky feeling of the original’s first half and replaces it mainly with darting synths. It’s sparer and a little more manic. The album version of “I Don’t Want Love” focuses on the contrast between that fragile falsetto and the gleaming, deep instrumentation; the EP version is more sluggish. It has no percussion and the guitar is fuzzed and crawling rather than cool and crystal clear, as if Billy Bragg slowed his songs way down and started singing like a 12-year-old in a boys’ choir. On the one hand, this emphasizes the isolated, self-protecting ache of a song titled “I Don’t Want Love.”  On the other, it lacks the tension between fragility and lushness.

“Rolled Together” adds Neon Indian for another lengthy take on the album track. The added length, like in the case of “Parentheses,” seems due to very long intros. Silberman shows his ability to hold a high note, which has to be pretty close to being unrivalled among men his age. It’s hard to see where Neon Indian comes in, except maybe to add some extra synth; Neon Indian believes more in punch and forward momentum, while the Antlers favour a slow burn. The EP version hews pretty faithfully to the original, centered around an ever-repeating four note riff that acquires an air of inevitability. “Rolled Together” comes right before the lengthy version of “Parentheses” that closes the album, meaning that the last two tracks are about as long as the other six tracks combined. This makes for a pacing issue.

The cover is of the xx song “VCR”. It eschews the hushed intimacy of the xx version and is instead a take that is sputtering and open. Instruments keep slipping in and out of the song, guitar squalls drift occasionally in the background. Silberman drifts between a deadpan normal voice and his falsetto. It definitely changes the effect of the original, but it lacks its power.

The (together) EP shows the upper and lower bounds of the Antlers work on their last album. It is neither a change of direction, nor chock full of revelatory bonus tracks. But as a collection of outtakes and remixes from Burst Apart, it works fine, assuring fans that they probably made that album as best they could, while giving them a few alternative scenarios to play around with.


The Antlers - I Don't Want Love
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