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Midlake had to start recording their third studio album from scratch when their front man suddenly quit. Watch the title track of the album that came out of the turmoil.
An antiphon is a call-and-response style of singing, from Gregorian chants to sea shanties. In the case of Denton, Texas favourite sons Midlake, its the perfect title for a bold response to a new phase in the bands illustrious career, with a re-jigged line-up and a newly honed sound as rich and symphonic as it is dynamic and kaleidoscopic.
Anyone who knows Midlakes preceding albums will recognise some constituent parts of Antiphon: the quirky psychedelia of 2004 debut Bamnan and Slivercork, the 70s soft-rock strains of breakthrough album The Trials Of Van Occupanther and the Brit-folk infusion of 2010s The Courage Of Others. But their fourth album is another fascinating departure, but also a logical progression. The sound is simultaneously familiar and changed.
Its always through the scope of Midlake, says vocalist / guitarist Eric Pulido, but on Antiphon we wanted to embrace the psychedelia, style and nuance you might hear in bands from yesteryear while also being aware of music influences present now. The result was less folk and more rock. Less nostalgic and more progressive. Now the skys the limit.
This growth is down to the ambition and ability of Pulido (vocals, guitars, keyboards) Paul Alexander (bass, keyboards, bassoon, guitars, backing vocals), McKenzie Smith (drums, percussion) and Eric Nichelson (guitars, autoharp), plus Jesse Chandler (keyboards, piano, flute, backing vocals) and Joey McClellan (guitars, backing vocals) from Midlakes last live incarnation. But its also down to the absence of Midlakes former singer Tim Smith, who left the band in November 2012.
As Pulido explains, Midlake had finished touring in support of The Courage Of Others in November 2010. We immediately returned to the studio, as we always did. With hindsight, that wasnt a good thing to do. The Courage Of Others had taken the best part of two years to make, and they found themselves struggling to achieve their aim. Midlake tried recording at the farm in Buffalo, Texas where theyd had success with The Courage Of Others, but we knew something was missing, Pulido recalls. The band took a break to play a few concerts, to try out new songs and keep ourselves out there. One show was Bella Unions 15th anniversary at the End of the Road Festival, which we didnt realise would be our last with Tim.
After some time back in Denton, Smith announced his departure. In the fall-out over the spoils of what had been recorded, the remaining members decided to start afresh, and wrote and recorded Antiphon in six harmonious months bar Vale, which had been demoed without Smith during one of the sessions. With its ravishing, rippling textures symptomatic of Antiphons scale, Vale showed how far theyd already come. The remaining nine tracks the album is free-flowing in feel, concise in structure confirm its very much Midlake, but uncannily rebooted, and relaxed.
The band had already validated their sublime instrumental mettle by backing John Grant on his award-winning 2010 solo debut Queen Of Denmark; now they had to step into new roles, collaborate on songwriting and have Pulido take over as frontman. He admits it wasnt the easiest transition for any of the band but the experience was enormously freeing: Antiphon is the most honest representation of the band as a whole, as opposed to one persons vision that we were trying to facilitate.
For example, The Old And The Young, a lighter, swinging version of the new Midlake, has elements of bouyancy that Pulido says were long suppressed. The chorus is catchy and has a lift, like we were releasing the dove! I love many genres of music from Abba to Zappa, and I wanted to write in a way that wasnt putting parameters around what it is we were creating. It was a more honest representation of who we really are.
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