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Album Review: The Antlers - Burst Apart * * * *

The Antlers are a Brooklyn-based trio led by Peter Silberman whose third album, Hospice, was one of the finest slow-burners of 2009.

Sonically stark and emotionally raw, it's a veritable concept album that revolves around an abusive relationship set in a cancer ward.

A wonderful album it may be, but it remains an acquired taste.

This follow-up [which had a low-key release in early June] doesn't disappoint. It's not as unrelentingly bleak as Hospice -- although there is no shortage of melancholy moments -- and there's been a notable shift, musically. While its predecessor was a minimalist work, where the listener had to strain to hear the quieter moments, Burst Apart is a much more expansive affair -- a quite beautiful union of atmospheric electronica and organic instrumentation.

In places, Silberman's delicate falsetto and gentle, acoustic-led music recalls a subdued Bon Iver. Elsewhere, the group's other members -- Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci -- make themselves heard, not least when the trio coax out the sort of dreamy loveliness trademarked by Sigur Ros.

At almost every turn, the meticulous composition of the tracks is apparent -- listen to the intricate synth textures of Tiptoe and the somewhat discordant, late Portishead feel of Parenthesis.

Silberman's muse remains firmly on the dark side: Putting the Dog to Sleep is a troubling number that walks the line between despair and pathos; the engaging Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out sounds every bit as anxious and nervy as the title suggests; while the faintly poppy opener I Don't Want Love offers a snapshot of a struggling relationship. One could imagine The National taking the latter song, beefing it up with their brand of muscular rock, and consolidating their place at the top table of indie.

The Antlers, meanwhile, are building slowly. This album's highest placing in the UK chart was at number 167, which tells you everything you need to know about the music tastes of the masses. But for those who bother to make its acquaintance, Burst Apart will likely prove as rewarding and compelling a listen as they'll hear all year.

Silberman and friends will play a headline show at Dublin's Academy on November 17 and Cork's Cyprus Avenue the following night.

Burn it: Parenthesis; I Don't Want Love; Tiptoe

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