Of all of the rock scenes in America, the most competitive might be the one in Brooklyn. In Bushwick, it isn’t enough to have great songs, a great look, or a great stage presence. To get attention, you’ve got to put those elements together in a way that’s simultaneously novel and exciting. There aren’t too many bands that can manage to do that. But if you can, Brooklyn will get behind you with the enthusiasm of true believers — and that’s exactly what’s happening with Antagonista, one of the most exciting outfits in the New York City underground.
A few measures into “Indigenous Geometry,” you’ll know exactly why. Antagonista is a rock group that leads with a sound: intense, committed, abrasive enough to make an immediate impression, and poised enough to satisfy fans of classic records. It’s a sound that alludes to punk, scrappy folk, garage rock, loose-limbed R&B, and jazz, too. The group writes songs that are instantly memorable — but they’re also offbeat, spiked with unexpected chord changes and harmonic detours. The musicians deliver it all with a combination of inventiveness and drive uncommon in any style. The reason why records like “Indigenous Geometry” sound as present and bracing as they do is because they were designed for the stage- and that stage, as Bushwick music aficionados will tell you, is an arena in which Antagonista has few peers.
The new recording builds on the momentum the band enjoyed after the 2020 release of the acclaimed full-length Salted-Over Stardust. That album demonstrated that artistic ambition is no impediment to reaching a dedicated audience and certainly no impediment to rocking hard. The lyrics to Stardustare densely poetic, filled with remarkable recursive images and fragmented, immersive storytelling, yet singer Sean Davenport makes every syllable stick. On “Indigenous Geometry,” his writing is just as smart and poetic, and he’s matched it to music as immediate as anything Antagonista has ever recorded.
Davenport is the focus of the bracing “Indigenous Geometry” clip, a solitary battle rendered in greyscale. Though he spends most of the video cornered — literally — he snarls at the camera, determined to box his way out of his constraints. The clip captures Davenport in an iron chair, backed up to the white walls of a starkly lit room. Sometimes he hammers out his message on an old typewriter, and sometimes he just stares down the lens. Just as you’re thinking that there’s something wolf-like about his demeanor, the camera cuts to a glowering canine — and then back to Davenport and then back to the dog. Soon, the images are switching so fast that it’s hard to tell whether you’re looking at a man or an animal. The message is clear: there’s a wild spirit inside of him, and it can’t be restrained forever.