PETER SILBERMAN (of the Antlers) as part of the Living Room tour at an undisclosed location, Saturday (March 25), 7 pm. Sold out.
One quiet morning during the mixing of his official solo debut, Impermanence, the Antlers’ Peter Silberman went for a walk with his works-in-progress. After so long in the solitude of the recording booth, he wanted to hear his music in a new environment, someplace with the sort of stillness a studio can’t provide.
Headphones on, he felt his songs dissolving into something unfamiliar. “It was sounding to me like an old tape that I’d found somewhere,” he says. “A little bit warped, a little bit aged, like I didn’t quite know where it came from.”
For many musicians, this might be a jarring experience. But for Silberman, a self-described obsessive with a meticulous, all-consuming creative process, the result was the culmination of a grand experiment.
He had aimed to create a record that felt like “a living and dying organism,” growing and decaying in gradual phases over the course of its running time. In the tradition of William Basinski’s seminal Disintegration Loops, Silberman and collaborators Nicholas Principe and Andrew Dunn repeatedly ran recordings through aged tape until the music itself decayed.
The result is a powerful song cycle on mortality that’s imbued with warmth and intimacy by its own analogue limitations. It calls to mind Brian Eno’s observation that we delight in the technical flaws of music – the warm hiss of a vinyl record, the feedback shriek of a Stratocaster, the rasp from a blues singer’s throat – because we are witnessing “events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”
Much of Impermanence chronicles a momentous event in Silberman’s life: his lengthy recovery from a hearing impairment that amplified the ambient noise of Brooklyn to unbearable levels. He eventually retreated to the relative quiet of upstate New York, where he sketched the beginnings of new music on a nylon-string acoustic guitar.
“This record came out of craving silence when I didn’t have it available to me,” says Silberman.
“Sometimes silence is unnerving. Sometimes it’s a little too truthful. Your brain fills in the space and doesn’t always fill it with things you want to hear or think about yourself. The idea is to face that, to become less afraid of it and more open to it, to clear away some of the noise of life.”
He’s extended this philosophy to promoting Impermanence. It’s another grand experiment: a North American tour played entirely in living rooms, private homes and other intimate spaces.
His Toronto show on Saturday is in an as-yet-undisclosed venue to a sold-out audience of 60. It’s a big change for Silberman, who’s fronted popular indie rockers the Antlers since 2006, playing clubs packed to capacity and opening for behemoths like Spoon and Death Cab for Cutie.
“The idea is to really bring silence into the mix,” says Silberman. “To let it be just me playing guitar, creating space wherever I can and opening that up to the audience. To take an hour and give in to silence, give in to space. And then when it’s over, go back to your life, back to mobile alerts and the news cycle and all these things crowding the world we live in.
“It’s important,” he says, “to make time to not let those things in. Just a little bit of time.”