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School Of Night
School Of Night Maria Schurr , November 12th, 2013 08:02

In a recent interview, Darby Cicci recounted the sight of a truck dumping blazing asphalt onto a road, a sight which motivated him to write a song crude in process but perfect on completion. The songs on School Of Night, like a newly paved road, appear smooth and effortless, with sounds both electronic and analogue working together to create something warm and significant. Yet, just as asphalt cannot cover all signs of wear, School Of Night does not totally conceal what's already been trod, which is to say it's not too far removed from Burst Apart and Undersea, the two most recent releases from Cicci's main band, The Antlers. Still, School Of Night contains enough heart to come across as more than a self-indulgent side project.

School Of Night carries a real sense of damage, something in itself not foreign to the things Cicci's Antlers cohort Peter Silberman writes about. Emotions run the gamut from passionate and doleful on 'Lying', to pensive and newly aware on 'Doktor', to mildly panicky on the EP's standout, 'Play Dead'. 'Fire Escape' has a bit of a very slow-grind groove to it, but you know someone's going to be crying by the end of the night. Most songs seem to pair the tried and true theme of harmful relationships with rejecting spirituality - the latter being something which Cicci has discussed - but one need not know this for the EP to flow as a cycle of dolor and rejuvenation.

It's hard to deliver a phrase like "a condition of erosion" without sounding horribly clinical; on 'Play Dead', Cicci sings this line with an undercurrent of tension. Why isn't exactly clear, although seeing as this was a years in the making effort for Cicci, it's gotta be important. Thankfully, the ambiguity of the EP in general elevates it from doleful twentysomething musings to a more universal affair. As someone involved largely in The Antlers' production and design aspects, Cicci's vocals and lyrics, while not revelatory, are capable enough to prove there is even more to him than playing synthesisers, organs, trumpets, the odd banjo, engineering albums, and having hair that is regularly complimented around the internet. 

There is a sense of resolution in closing track 'Vacuum', but this song meanders where 'Doktor', School Of Night's other seven-minute-long song, had enough subtle shifting therein to keep things engaging. Although it's no replacement for an Antlers release, School Of Night is successful both as a collection of beautiful, personal songs and as a guidebook on how to deal with problems and realisations about identity in a mature and graceful way. Cicci's solo music may lack some of The Antlers' catharsis, but he makes up for it with dexterity and vision; fortunately for us listening, it seems as though Cicci's view of the future is blazing.