Burial – Antidawn EP (Hyperdub, 2022)

I’m in a bad place

with nowhere to go

The last two years have begun in the same manner: a false start of sorts, the emergence of a new year, a new cycle, marred by Coronavirus restrictions and uncertainties. What for many people represents a closing of one discrete chapter, and the opening of the next, became submerged amidst a rising tide of infection rates and hospital deaths. A new year on the calendar, but not in our hearts.

I don’t feel Antidawn is an antidote to this mood, rather a reflector or mirror of such, reaffirming our feelings of burnout and ennui, the need for freedoms to feel whole and normal, and to pursue the things that make us happy again.

To that end, shaped as it is by the world circumstances we find ourselves set against, this EP (which at 45 minutes long is tantamount to Burial LP 3) sees Bevan at his most ambient, most minimal, most reductive. A logical refinement of his increasingly ascetic sound design over the years, this is the most stripped back of all, and perhaps the most moving as a result.

Hoovering up all the drums and beats, the spaces that they would have otherwise filled is now a glittery star field of inky darkness, populated by sprinkles of judiciously placed vocal fragments and the warm familiarly of vinyl crackle. Centrepiece and seminal “Antidawn” is at the nadir of this construction style, lost to an endless listlessness, the few sporadic samples seeing voice echoing out of its intensely, deeply lonely well. A few gossamer strands of Vangelis-esque synth pierce an otherwise formless void that feels as though it may never be happy again.

Instrumentation more generally is few and far between, primarily to be found in interior “Shadow Paradise” and preceding “New Love”, arriving on dated synth chords that seem curiously, if appropriately, out of time. Displaced from some other distant world that we used to know and consider normal, but seems wrong and incompatible with the now.

Warped accordions and flanging tones also appear in closing “Upstairs Flat”, ballooning drones filling the space in a gentle bid to offset the vacuum left behind by CoViD. “Alone, in your loving arms…in the darkest night…I wanna be there”. Physical touch, the need to be held, to be cared for in a world that seems so much less lived in, so loveless, make this a haunting and plaintive closer, but a perfect distillation of the work.

This exceeding rarefaction may be a tough pill to swallow for fans of Burial’s older material, but make no mistake this retains all his usual hallmarks despite its comparative rhythmic formlessness. In my opinion a masterclass of ambience that somehow even more strongly articulates the isolationism of British urban loneliness in these voided, dislocated times we live in.