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By: Bogar Alonso
Chicago, IL, USA
There are works of art that embed themselves in the collective consciousness of a society. Their message is so urgent and universal that they garner a mass following until reaching iconic status. It becomes almost blasphemous to imagine a reality without them.
Then there are works that are just as seminal, but differ from the latter, because they are an exclusive crusade into an artist’s soul. Instead of peering into the soul of the world, we are witness to the emotional gears of an individual.
The Antlers’ Hospice is a fine example of the above crusade. With its opening track, “Prologue,” we submerge into the trove of Peter Silberman’s psyche. The electronic bellows of the tune tell that it is a place riddled with angels and demons.
Hospice initially is a hard pill to swallow. Its story of a love affair between a tormented patient and the health-care worker that tends to her, on first listen, seems trite. The album teeters from the melodramatic to the heart-wrenching, but eventually paints a picture of unique dimensions. The healer, in an effort to save a tortured soul, damns himself to a similar ailment; he becomes the patient: “But you came back to see me for a minute or less, and left me your ring in my fist/ My hair started growing, my face became yours, my femur was breaking in half.” The excerpt comes from near the end of the album, entrenched in the margins of the song “Shiva.” Unfortunately, as is the case for a fair amount of these songs, “Shiva” suffers from a muddled layering of barren instrumentation.
Songs like “Atrophy” and “Wake” also ache to be healed of dreary ambience (one wonders if they should be admitted to a room of the Hospice). Perhaps it was intentional on Silberman’s part; in an effort to infect listeners with the apathy haunting his characters, he drenched his music with like-minded sentiment. But what could have served the album, however, instead detracts from it.
Still, somehow, enough genuine sensation, at times so poignant as to become meditative, seeps through on the second or third listen. The track “Bear” is as precious as the life it sings about destroying. Anyone looking to get an abortion for empty reasons should listen to this: “There’s a bear inside your stomach, a cub’s been kicking from within/ He’s loud, though without vocal chords, we’ll put an end to him/ We’ll make all the right appointments, no one ever has to know/and then tomorrow I’ll turn twenty-one, we’ll script another show.” Sung along with nursery chimes that erupt into shoe-gaze splendor, it anchors the album to a peak that is achieved again with the fragile “Kettering” and the frolicking “Two.” These three tracks maintain the same themes as the lesser ones, except they are woven with innovative musicality. Their strength is derived from the manner in which they have been treated: Silberman has nursed them with care and compassion, instead of saturating them with sedation. Our world, too, would be the better off, if such a treatment were given to our collection of patients. Or, alternatively, perhaps we may cure the world if people like Silberman can continue to self-heal through elaborate expression.