Antlers frontman brings his intimate new record to life in cozy setting
A portrait of Peter Silberman appears on the cover of his solo debut, Impermanence (Anti). Or at least it appears to be the musician.
The image itself is blurred nearly beyond recognition, as if Silberman is gradually being erased from his own life, like Marty McFly steadily fading from his family photograph in “Back to the Future.” Odds are this is how the musician felt when he moved from his bustling Brooklyn home into near-total seclusion in upstate New York in the midst of a health scare brought on by his years fronting indie-rock band the Antlers.
“I experienced drastic hearing loss accompanied by a hyper-sensitivity to sound in one of my ears. As a result, I had to take a break from playing music and listening to music and singing and even talking,” said Silberman, 30, who visits Columbus for a house concert on Sunday, April 2. “It was a very solitary experience, and it took me time to articulate what was going on. … Over the course of a couple years, and after moving out of the city and reestablishing myself in the country, this album emerged from it.”
The influence of these forced quiet years informs every track on the album, which finds Silberman, his voice often at whisper volume, wrestling with everything from the initial impact of his condition (on “New York” the singer is assailed with city sounds — hammer clangs, sirens, etc. — that had previously blurred into the background) to the inevitability of death (“Our bodies are temporary,” he sighs on one tune).
While Silberman has never shied from addressing human frailty in his songs — the Antlers' 2009 breakout, Hospice, centers on a terminally ill child — there's a newfound directness to his writing here that he said stemmed from a realization that human beings are simply physical organisms that, over time, decay.
“We're tied into bigger, natural processes, and so I think there's more acceptance of [death] than there has been in the past,” he said. “There's a lot of effort that goes into the reality of ignoring death, or taking our minds off it. … Most people would rather change the subject, which is perfectly understandable, but I think talking about it makes it less scary.
“I have friends that remind themselves every day that they are going to die, and it's very motivating for them. It reminds them to not take anything for granted and to be present in their lives.”
The concept of being present in the moment was central to Silberman's decision to introduce his solo debut with a run of intimate house shows — a far cry from the mid-sized rock clubs and theaters frequented by the Antlers. (The musician noted the band would likely resume activity following a needed break for the members “to establish their own lives.”)
“It's much smaller audiences, which is a change from Antlers shows. But we also didn't play a lot of unconventional spaces, and in this case we're kind of making the venue out of someone's home or a raw space,” said Silberman. “This record is much more subdued and spare and bare bones, and I think the idea was to try to encourage the same feeling [with these shows]. There's so much space [in these songs], and you can kind of fill in the space with your own thoughts and experiences. I wanted to create a show environment where there could be that level of psychic interaction happening.”