MIDLAKE

Antiphon

2014-03-31

Antiphon is Midlake's fourth album and represents, according to the band, "an ultimate genesis both spiritually and musically." This could be due to the departure of founding member Tim Smith (vocals, guitar), who decided to leave the band to start a new project by the name of Harp. The Denton, TX band released their first LP Bamnan and Slivercork in 2003, which combined acoustic sounds with electronic flourishes and lo-fi keyboard accents. They formed as a ragtag bunch of jazz students at the University of North Texas College of Music back in 1999, initially playing jazz and funk exploratory pieces under the name The Cornbread All-Stars, and soon eschewed this credo to be an indie-rock gang. So considering guitarist Eric Pulido (who stepped in to replace Smith's lead vocals) claiming that Antiphon is "the most honest representation of the band as a whole, as opposed to one person's vision that [we're] trying to facilitate," the record sounds and feels like a rebirth for Midlake. This is their first release on Dave Matthew's ATO Records, which is home to bands such as My Morning Jacket, Okkervil River, Stars, and Alabama Shakes, to name a few.

The songs have more of a progressive rock leaning than their previous material. They are free-flowing, sometimes galloping, sometimes charging journeys that loosely reference the composition of Pink Floyd's more straightforward records. It does indeed, as Pulido claimed, sound like a cohesive effort: the guitars provide a solid backdrop for swirling keyboards, harmonizing vocals, and McKenzie Smith's restless drumming. On some occasions, minute details transform the atmosphere and flavor of the music just enough to mentally jot down: a good example of this is the harpsichord sound introduced around a minute into "It's Going Down." Antiphon balances just the right amount of spacey jam tunes to good ol'-fashioned rock and roll, like the best progressive rock aims to do. If you're partial to any of Midlake's contemporaries - Shearwater, Wild Beasts, and The Czars, among others - this album may just tickle your fancy. Don't be alarmed if you find yourself Gregorian chanting along.

Recommended Tracks: #2 "Provider", #3 "The Old and the Young", #8 "This Weight"

Sig Steiger

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