Nick Principe and Peter Silberman, childhood friends and musical collaborators, the former, the force behind Port St. Willow, the latter, the gloomy genius responsible for fellow Brooklyn band, The Antlers, brought their magically mopey brand of 21st century indie rock to the stage at the Club at Water Street Wednesday, September 26.
Port St. Willow opened with a sophisticated, although sometimes sloppy, set of space rock. The songs were filled with frightening falsetto, subtle but memorable percussive patterns, and pulsing layers of decadent feedback. They seemed to morph into a singular sonic statement, which, at times, was rich and powerful. But, the dissonance fell apart or dissipated before it came together or packed a legitimate punch.
Where Port St. Willow failed on the quest to synthesize the ambient with the anthemic, The Antlers succeeded again and again. Peter Silberman has come a long way from his Brooklyn bedroom (where he wrote and recorded most of the band’s breakout album “Hospice”). The Antlers’ musical roots deftly branch into the worlds of folk, pop, jazz, and post-rock, while Silberman’s androgynous and seraphic falsetto brings an almost Benedictine quality to the catalog.
It opened the set with “Drift Drive,” a song filled with marvelously murky melodies and submerged reverb, the first song off the band’s most recent and aptly titled EP, “Undersea.” The eerie eloquence of Silberman’s rich soundscape transformed the seemingly pedestrian guitar riffs into short, declarative stanzas within a grand, poetic narrative.
“Rolled Together,” the minimalistic, yet monumental cornerstone of 2011’s “Burst Apart,” served the same structural role in the show’s evolution. It was the perfect example of how the group’s tone floats evenly into spaces ethereal and funereal. The breezy, hymn-like quality of the song fanned a gentle flame that flickered through the ominous mist of Silberman’s lyrical lamentations: “Pulled together but about to burst apart, rolled together with a burning paper heart.”
“Sylvia,” a deeply disturbed ode to the poet Plath, was another memorable track: It slowly dragged you in, lulled you into a false sense of security, before the dizzying uppercut of a chorus hit. It was the marriage of the timeless and the immediate; something that all truly great music seems to facilitate.
The encore was highlighted by the airy “Zelda,” in which Silberman crooned “I'm here to tell you we’re not awake." His pronouncement was a whisper blanketing the intersection between our dreams and waking life, where he somehow made everything make sense, if only for that moment.Want to check out other shows coming to Water Street? Give a listen to their music channel on our new City Newspaper online radio station by clicking the button below: