Antietam – Intimations Of Immortality

Antietam – Intimations Of Immortality

A lot has changed in the world since Antietam last put out an album in 2011.  Yet like close comrades Eleventh Dream Day, the continued existence of the group – which originally formed way back in 1984 – is a source of comfort and a good example of sustainable longevity.  Also like the part-time EDD, latter-day ‘whenever it’s ready’ release patterns serve Tara Key (vocals/guitars/keyboards), Tim Harris (bass/cello/vocals) and Josh Madell (drums/vocals) well creatively.  Now, after another hiatus, the threesome return with a new burst of activity; using their own Motorific Sounds label to funnel archival wares, side-projects and this new Antietam long-player.

Belying the clichés of the band’s veteran status, Intimations Of Immortality is a remarkably hungry and omnivorous affair.  Reacting somewhat to the preceding taut and back-to-basics Tenth Life, this fresh long-player is a more malleable set-piece.  Whilst the raw power-trio set-up still sits at its core, the addition of generous extended-family guest support from Yo La Tengo’s James McNew (mixing) and Ira Kaplan (piano), band-hopping art-rock pro Sue Garner (backing vocals/production help), The Scene Is Now’s Cheryl Kingan (saxes) and Steven Levi (cornet), Special Pillow’s Katie Gentile (violin) and Louisville bluegrass legend Steve Cooley (mandolin/guitar) fleshes out the recordings to give them added craftsmanship and conviviality.

So whilst there’s another strong suite of Patti Smith-infused covert anthems (“Sunshine”, “Jefferson”, “Is It Time?” and “Sooner Or Later”), the varying combinations of augmenting harmonies, barrelling barroom pianos, soaring strings and rousing horns give them added wider screen touches worthy of a youthful version of The E Street Band.  Not to be easily pigeonholed though, the expanded ensemble also stretch out into darker faster Crazy Horse-gone-punk chuggers (“I’m So Tired”, “The Fresno Drop” and “They Don’t Know”), a terrific garage-rock-meets-New Orleans-carnival instrumental (“Birdwatching”), staccato art-pop (“Right Between Your Eyes”) and a pensive yet uplifting jazz-framed wordless homage to Electr-O-Pura-era Yo La Tengo (“And Then”).

Like Tenth Life before it, the loose live-in-a-room production aesthetics of Intimations Of Immortality can make you work hard to uncover all the melodic details and thought-provoking wordplay, yet overall it’s also a warmer and more spirited collection that captures Tara Key and co. in self-elevating rude health.

Motorific Sounds