Familiars, the fourth album from Brooklyn-based indie/chamber/electronic trio Antlers, comes as a glacially slow step in the slow-moving progress that marked both their death-themed 2009 breakthrough album Hospice and its more electronica-leaning 2011 follow-up, Burst Apart. The nine songs here are sprawling pocket symphonies, longer songs brimming over with the horn arrangements that were just hinted at on previous work, if a little lighter on airy keyboards and Boards of Canada-influenced dreaminess. Songwriter Pete Silberman has always had a gift for storytelling lyrics that tend more toward tragedy than redemption, and a thick, somber vibe carries throughout much of Familiars, beginning with the brass section-powered lope of "Palace." Interplay between bright but distant-sounding horn sections and soft, simmering instrumentation makes every song a lush, glowing affair, recorded with a somewhat detached production that never allows for any one element to come too much into focus. This comes through with the same pastoral melancholia as Talk Talk on songs like "Refuge," while tunes like "Doppelgänger" tend more toward an almost film noir jazziness. As with previous albums, Antlers are at their best when things in Silberman's songs are at their bleakest, and the rock-bottom angst of "Hotel" is easily one of Familiars' strongest, if its narrator's sentiments are troubled at best. The album's focus on horn arrangements and roomy, dreamlike production gives it a singular feel, one where listening through the entire album feels not unlike wading through a field of tall reeds as an inexplicably sad autumn day fades into twilight.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas