Peter Silberman’s new record is a lush and languid affair that will please fans of his primary band The Antlers. After dabbling in some ambient experiments on his 2016 EP ‘Transcendless Summer’, Silberman circles back to the meticulously crafted pop compositions for which he’s known. But where The Antlers’ albums boast a wide variety of instruments and rich orchestration, ‘Impermanence’ is stripped back. It’s an album that succeeds in balancing simplicity and elegance on every track.
Silberman built this subdued sound from the ground up after suffering a brief loss of hearing followed by a severe case of tinnitus. He moved to the tranquil surroundings of upstate New York and started writing on an acoustic guitar, one of the few instruments that didn’t hurt his ears. Accordingly, ‘Impermanence’ is built around the guitar. Songs rise slowly from echoing riffs and chords; drums and the occasional piano may join halfway into a track. It’s these latter halves that reveal Silberman’s greatest strength as a songwriter, the way his music unfolds from something sparse into something beautiful. This is especially apparent on the album’s standout moments, ‘Karuna’ and ‘Ahimsa’, long tracks which gradually blossom.
The tone of ‘Impermanence’ isn’t as downcast as some of Silberman’s other work; he’s pared down the melodrama that pervaded The Antlers’ ‘Hospice’ and ‘Burst Apart’. Still, there’s an innate melancholy in his signature falsetto, and ‘Impermanence’ manages to remain emotionally rich without feeling overwrought. Three tracks, ‘Karuna’, ‘Maya’ and ‘Ahimsa’ take their titles from Buddhism, which fits the strong sense of Zen and compassion on this record. There are weak points, too, like ‘New York’ – a song that drips with a sentimentality and, here, feels out of place. Even so, all the songs on ‘Impermanence’ share a gentle positivity rarely expressed so openly in Silberman’s work. Though it takes time for these songs to unfurl, each one rewards patience with wisdom and warmth.