81:03 by Antarctica (Review)

One of those albums that reminds you of all of your favorite bands and yet still sounds unique.
81:03 - Antarctica

A few years back, I was hanging out with my friend Steven and listening to music. I think it was just after we’d finished watching some wierd film by a French director I can’t recall. Anyways, Steven was a cool guy. He introduced me to all of that World Serpent wackiness, but also had a pronounced love for all of early ’80s post-punk and new wave, especially Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Cure. On that particular night, we were listening to The Glove when Steven looked at me and asked “Why doesn’t anyone make music like this anymore?” If I see Steven again, I’ll gladly give him my copy of Antarctica’s 81:03, because someone is finally making music like that again.

It’s obvious that the biggest influence on Antarctica’s music is the Cure, namely the Cure from the early 80s when they pushed out albums like Seventeen Seconds and Faith. Albums that dripped with atmospheric tragedy, gloomy paranoia, and a sense of angst so deep that it drew you in like a black hole.

But if that was the only influence on Antarctica, what would be the point? I could just slip in my worn copy of Faith and call it good. While Antarctica may have their feet firmly planted in the music of that era, they’ve got their eyes firmly focused on the electronics of groups like Underworld and Aphex Twin as well as the shoegazer pop of Slowdive and Ride.

I’m hard-pressed to think of an album that impressed me so much after just hearing it a handful of times. 81:03 is one of those albums that immediately falls into heavy rotation, and yet never seems to stray far from your CD player. It’s one of those albums that reminds you of all of your favorite bands and yet still sounds unique. Finally, it makes you realize that if you could ever start your own band, it would sound just like this.

If I have to make one complaint, I’m not too certain that this needed to be a double disc. I’m sure they could’ve shaved off a minute here and minute there and put the whole thing on a single disc. But guess what? I’m not going to hold that against them at all. Not when I can listen to tracks like “Tower Of Silence” and “Tektur The Water”, where Antarctica’s post-punk and electronic sides co-exist in perfect harmony. And why would I want to critique the Seefeel-ish tracks “Return To Omma Dawn” and “Arctikal”, which make me feel like I’m traversing some alien tundra or a landscape out of Tarkovsky’s Stalker? Why would I want to critique an album with song titles this cool?

At the risk of losing any journalistic integrity (like I had any to begin with), this gets my vote for one of 1999’s best albums. Merging genres (e.g., post-punk, electronica, dreampop) is not always an easy task, but successfully merging the sounds of your favorite bands and not coming off like a cheap imitation is even harder, and Antarctica do both with grace and aplomb.

One other thing… if you get a chance to, see Antarctica live. Their concert is incredibly tight, and the songs sound even better in a live setting. I saw them with The Gloria Record, and they were easily the better band.

If you enjoy reading Opus and want to support my writing, then become a subscriber for just $5/month or $50/year.
Subscribe Today
Return to the Opus homepage