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"Provider, carry on
Far from the golden age
Follow me down a fox hole in the ground
The talented musicians in the Texas-based band Midlake have never been afraid to embrace change in terms of musical styles, dabbling in different genres ranging from Alternative/Indie (2004’s Bamnan And Slivercork), ‘70s Laurel Canyon-inspired Westcoast/Soft-Rock (2006’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther), and vintage British Folk/Folk-Rock (2010’s The Courage Of Others). But when lead singer/main songwriter Tim Smith quite unexpectedly chose to leave during the recording sessions for Midlake’s fourth full-length release due to creative differences, fans feared that he left a void the size of Texas. Meanwhile, the other band members continued undeterred, boldly deciding to scrap the majority of the material written with Tim Smith, and instead of replacing him, lead guitarist Eric Pulido stepped in and filled the void as Midlake’s new lead vocalist.
So how does this regrouping affect the music on Antiphon? As with their three previous albums, the adventurous band once again explores new territory, while still sounding unmistakably like Midlake. This time around, the source of inspiration is 1970s British Prog-Rock (early Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, The Moody Blues, The Alan Parsons Project, etc.), albeit with more compact, less self-indulgent song structures, and this is yet another genre Midlake master to perfection.
The intensely dramatic Antiphon, a forceful Rock number and the band’s heaviest recording to date, opens the album with a bang, on waves of scorching electric guitars that instantly pack a punch. Next up is Midlake’s poignant farewell to Tim Smith, the melodic and melancholic Provider which features a shuffling beat, Psychedelic-inflected electric guitars and a haunting, reflective lead vocal by Eric Pulido that is bound to fill any long-time fan with bittersweet yearning. Among the most captivating tracks on Antiphon, two are particularly evocative, The Old And The Young and This Weight. Both songs are characteristically atmospheric and autumnal, yet they are remarkably uplifting, with compelling melodies and choruses showcasing bouncy drum patterns and exciting synth sounds spiralling upwards.
The arrangement and production of It’s Going Down bring to mind early Pink Floyd (especially late drummer Rick Wright), while the flute-tinged Aurora Gone is reminiscent of The Moody Blues in their heyday, and closing track Provider Reprise channels the wistful balladry of The Alan Parsons Project (lead vocalist Eric Pulido sounds uncannily like the late singer Eric Woolfson). From an outsider’s perspective, the departure of founding member/main songwriter Tim Smith could very well have been the beginning of the end for Midlake, but listening to Antiphon it sounds more like a fresh new start. A triumph.