We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
If there’s anything good to be said about the recent demise of New YorknbynwaynofnD.C. dance-punk quartet Supersystem, it’s that its busiest member, singer-guitarist Justin Moyer, can now devote more time to Antelope. The local postpunk trio, which also includes multi-instrumentalists Mike Andre and Bee Elvy, has released only a handful of tracks since its 2001 inception; its first full-length, Reflector, a 10-song collection that clocks in at a shade over 25 minutes, barely qualifies as a full-fledged album. The music itself is similarly parsimonious. Moyer (a Washington City Paper contributing writer who is blogging about Antelope’s current tour on the paper’s Web site) favors trebly, single-note guitar lines and seldom plays anything as brazen as a complete chord—when he bothers to pick up the instrument, that is. His bandmates are more generous, but what they play could hardly be called dense. Andre and Elvy, who split bass and drum duties, create metronomic pulses reminiscent of minimalist techno. Musically, at least, the only aspect of Reflector that is anything less than austere—and more than a little punk—is the singing. Moyer has John Lydon’s death-disco yelp down cold, and he uses it to hair-raising effect on “Dead Eye,” a song that references the Nazi bombing that inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. “Broken swords they have a shape,” Moyer agitatedly sings, “and broken bodies have a shape.” He then reels off another couplet before mimicking an air raid siren. (It’s the sort of tactic you would expect from a guy who, as a member of Supersystem, once referred to himself as “Justin Destroyer.”) He extends that sense of unease throughout Reflector, and he doesn’t always employ vocal histrionics to do it. “The Demon” is unsettling because Moyer’s lyrics imply that he’s siding with the horrific title character; when he sings “the demon knows where to go,” his lack of emotion conveys advocacy. Even “Flower,”
the singer’s most soothing vocal performance (Correction: Due to an error by writer Brent Burton, a review of Antelope’s Reflector in last week’s issue incorrectly stated that Justin Moyer is the vocalist on “Flower.” Bee Elvy sings on that track.) and the band’s most balladlike tune, is full of bad vibes. “Flower in your darkest mind,” Moyer croons, “thought dividing yours from mine.” Antelope’s calling card is the dissonance it generates between the vocals’ grimness and the music’s relative calm; without it the band would be just another wallpaperish post-rock act. That it has an edge suggests that a band can be both “meditative,” as its bio claims, and something other than one-dimensional. It would be nice if Antelope could add “prolific” to its bio, as well.