Hello, darkness my old friend...ANTI-, 2017
8.3 / 10
Peter Silberman is the frontman for The Antlers. The band is known for devastating songs and one particular devastating album, Hospice. Even though it’s a depressing album, Hospice still ranks in my top ten of the last ten years. On his solo debut record, Silberman maintains his deeply personal songwriting. However, Impermanence feels more personal than ever. A few years ago, Silberman fell victim to a hearing impairment; losing total hearing in one ear and gaining terrible sensitivity to everyday sounds. In order to find serenity, he had to leave his Brooklyn home. This experience shapes the themes of Impermanence.
The album’s title, Impermanence, is one of the three characteristics of existence in Buddhism. It asserts all of conditioned existence, without exception, is “transient, evanescent, inconstant.” Basically, all humans get old and die. The album’s bare bones instrumentation gives it a very intimate quality. Silberman’s voice grabs hold of a word and seemingly refuses to let it go. He purposely accentuates the distance between notes and chords. It creates an atmosphere of haunting seclusion.
At just six songs, the album combats its short track list with lengthy songs. Album opener, “Karuna”, is nearly nine minutes, but it never feels long. In the song, Silberman calls out for someone to heal him while he struggles with his body’s deterioration. The album’s following song, “New York”, chooses a shorter track length, but its message is just as powerful. Here, Silberman addresses the immense volume of his home city. His lyrics recall his pain but also romanticize the city’s noise and life. “Blaring brakes, trapped trucks/ Honking horns, hissing buses stuck/ Shrieking trains barreling berserk/ Like I never heard New York,” he sings. Though the noise causes him harm, he seems to miss it at the same time.
Among the very best songs on Impermanence is “Maya”. The song opens with Silberman’s gentle cooing and then melds with a softly strumming guitar. “Trying to breathe like you breathe/ On your very first try/ Likely filling you up with ample supply/ For goodbye,” he sings on “Maya”. It is a commentary on age, relationships, and mourning in one shot. From Silberman’s painful experience comes an album of exquisite beauty. It makes you realize all of the things we fail to notice as important until they’re gone. Thankfully Peter Silberman is still here.