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Main » 2007 » June » 13 » Antietam - 1986 - Music from Elba
Antietam - 1986 - Music from Elba
Antietam - Music from Elba

This easily gets a place in my top-15 records from the 80s, and I was surprised to find out that, although Antietam are still active, their early recordings have never been reissued, not even posted in the music-blogland.

Antietam came from Louisville, KY, where Tara Key and Tim Harris were in Babylon Dance Band and Wolf Knapp in Your Food. In 1984 the three of themrelocated to New Jersey and formed Antietam with Mike Weinert on drums. Their first (self-titled) LP came out in 1985 on Homestead records, as well as Music Form Elba in 1986. Today they live in NYC. In some reviews they have been described as "Hoboken-sound" (i.e. like the Feelies or Yo La Tengo), but to my ears, their first two LPs always sounded equally east and west coast. There is something in Tara Key's guitar playing and voclas that leads me straight to San Francisco acid. You can add to this the very tight and inspired rhythm section of Wolf Knapp and Sean Mulhall (joined after the first LP), and the enthusiastic playing of the quartet (and the guest Dana Pentes on violin), and you have a band that certainly were kicking at their shows (according to recent reviews Tara Key is still playing as in her 20s at her performances).

Although Antietam was from Louisville, KY, their second album really should have been titled "Music from Hoboken." Music from Elba slots so perfectly into the mid-'80s Hoboken scene of moody, guitar-based indie rock (think Feelies and/or early Yo La Tengo) that it wasn't surprising in the least that frontwoman Tara Key and bassist Tim Harris moved to the New Jersey city later in the decade to reestablish Antietam. On this album, however, Key and Harris share the compositional and vocal spotlight with second bassist Wolf Knapp, which gives the album an odd but productive tension; Knapp's tunes, like "Concord" and "War Is the Health of the State," show a distinct influence from earlier bands like the Gang of Four and Pylon; the rubbery interplay of the two basses and the looser rhythms jar interestingly with Key and Harris' more intense and guitar-oriented songs, like the powerful "In a Glass House," one of the band's all-time high points. Other highlights include the atypically poppy opener "San Diego" and a Harris-penned instrumental, "Fontaine Ferry," that really betrays the Feelies influence. Music from Elba still has its flaws, most notably Albert Garzon's substandard, tinny production, but it's a tremendous improvement over the group's lackluster self-titled debut. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide

A school was being born in Kentucky that would be influential throughout the 1990s. Its early leaders were bands at the crossroads between roots-rock and noise-rock, and Tara Key's Antietam were the most typical in bridging those two styles, i.e. the South and Sonic Youth, the rural and the urban sound, tradition and modernism. (Scaruffi)

ANTIETAM brought its furiously intricate rock to Speakeasy on Wednesday night, tearing into songs in which so much happens so fast that they threaten to fly apart.

Tim Harris and Wolf Knapp play two independent bass parts, which are kicked along by Steve Crowley's drumming and collide or tangle with Tara Key's rapid-fire strumming or psychedelic-tinged lead guitar.
Songs stop and restart, shift key or tempo, abruptly mutate; when guitar and basses shared one passage in octaves, the sudden absence of counterpoint was startling. Antietam also juggles three singers, with Ms. Key taking most of the melodies, Mr. Harris on harmonies and countermelodies and Mr. Knapp delivering deadpan near-spoken lyrics. Sometimes it sounds as if the band is playing two or three songs crumpled together.
But it's passion, not complexity, that makes Antietam's music so impressive. The clinical precision of old-fashioned progressive-rock bands (who often played simpler music) isn't for Antietam; band members pick and strum and sing as if caught in a whirlwind. The lyrics on Antietam's new album, ''Music From Elba,'' are about surviving while structures collapse; the music builds new structures from fragments and clings to them with desperate urgency. (By Jon Pareles - New York Times December 14, 1986)

You can find their Rope-A-Dope album from 1994 here

Thanks to douglas maxson for the corrections (Antietam actually formed in Hoboken) and the following information

"Something that might be of interest is that the small Noise Pollution label in Louisville has just released a monster CD of the early Louisville punk scene which includes 3 previously unreleased studio tracks by the Babylon Dance Band, 3 previously unreleased tracks by No Fun (Tara's first band), as well as 3 tracks from Your Food's '83 LP "Poke It With A Stick"...29 songs by 10 bands plus a 16 page booklet, all for 12 bucks. It's pretty fucking awesomo. You can get details/previews at Bold Beginnings.

If you're curious what this early Louisville scene looked like, there's a massive--and still growing--archive up at "

Category: Alternative/Punk | Views: 2181 | Added by: RainyDaySponge | Rating: 0.0/0 |

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