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Review: “Impermanence” – Peter Silberman

The Antlers always thrived on melodrama. From everyone’s favorite tearjerker Hospice to the freeform jazzy styling of Familiars, The Antlers never did anything in half measures. Perhaps it was this commitment to maximalism that ultimately cost frontman Peter Silberman his hearing.

The beardy, brainy songwriter was forced to retreat from the commotion of New York to recalibrate and reorient his life. But for a life so consumed by sound, the task proved challenging. Finding the way back to music was challenging road for Silberman, but when he did, he found that he had been forced to almost relearn how to write and play music. Out of this reconfiguration came Impermanence, Silberman’s first solo album.

This collection of “solitary songs,” as Silberman calls them, were formed in upstate New York with the help of his longtime friend and collaborator, Nick Principe of Port St. Willow. Together, they crafted a six song circle. Silberman is quick to point that it is in fact a circle, rather than the traditional story arc he has utilized in the past for albums, as he is still finding his way around his new normal.

Unlike The Antlers’ most popular stuff, few of the songs on Impermanence truly climax. Instead, they constantly swirl and simmer and prod. Silberman has said that he was aiming to reflect the mind-expanding meditation and reorganization he dealt as he came to terms with his hearing loss. The slow unravel of a track like album opener ‘Karuna’ makes it hard to deny this accomplishment.

But Impermanence also features more traditionally styled songs, like ‘New York.’ The track, which echoes the guitar technique of Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah,’ shows Silberman’s changing perception about New York, the city that he once loved that now attacks his ears and his health. It makes for powerful, personal listening.

Silberman, who frequently reads Eastern philosophy and experiments with meditation, said the lessons he has taken from his reeducation can be found at the core of Impermanence. “I found a lot of writing on Buddhism and psychedelics to be relevant to the experience I was having because it is about deconstructing reality and putting it back together,” he told me. “We often take being in a normal equilibrium for granted, but this all helped show this is simply how we perceive it and that it is, to some extent, an illusion of our senses…It is actually the result of a really delicate balance that is happening within the brain in relation to the environment around it. If you tweak that just a little bit, it kind of turns into chaos.”

In many ways, Impermanence is very constrained, beautiful chaos. But not chaos in the bomb-just-went-off kind of way many of us imagine. No, the chaos of Impermanence resides in what the listener cannot hear, just the way Silberman intended.

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