Burial’s Antidawn EP, the atmosphere of urban British wintertime
In January, Burial graced fans with a new release, Antidawn. Released on 6th January 2021 via the record label Hyperdub, Antidawn signals Burial’s biggest release in a while. It is the first release with official cover art since Untrue in 2007. It is the artist’s longest record since then too, featuring five tracks and a run time of 43 minutes, essentially an album of sorts. Alongside the promotion for this EP came the second ever photo of Burial to be released! While still an ever-mysterious picture of him in some snow, these changes feel like a signal for more to come.
Many fans might find themselves let down by Antidawn. This EP doesn’t offer you the addictive atmospheric basslines found throughout his earlier work, but acts as a soundscape. Antidawn certainly isn’t danceable, but it is not trying to be. It is clear that what Burial is doing with Antidawn is different from his previous body of work. For me, out of Burial’s prior discography it feels most reminiscent of the track ‘State Forest’, a pulsating 8-minute track from the Claustro EP released in 2019.
The description released via Hyperdub’s Instagram describing Antidawn does it justice. The EP is described on Burial’s Bandcamp page as a ‘no man’s land’, where ‘lyrics take precedence over song’, the record feeling like ‘game space ambience’, and a ‘dislocated […] patchwork.’ It shows you a ‘wintertime city’ resulting in a sound that is ‘comforting and disturbing.’ Here, Burial carefully constructs this in-between, giving the listener familiarity of both the positive and negative. It is an ambient piece that everyone living in the UK in wintertime can relate to, encapsulating the winter drudgery of constant grey days.
Although the description of this EP may seem awfully depressing, there is an essence of hope. Sort of like with the post-Christmas blues, you can remind yourself throughout January that the days are gradually getting longer again. The worst is behind you even though you must still endure the grey. The ambient soundscape created by this record fits seamlessly into the sounds of urban life. Walking along in a city like Manchester, it blends well with the background sounds of cars and the city.
I feel that although what most Burial fans want, myself included, is another album like the renowned Untrue, that’s not where Burial is headed. He’s clearly venturing towards more ambient territory, emphasising the crackles and hisses that appear in his earlier work by crafting a soundscape. In any case, I prefer this direction of Burial to the Shock of Power EP released last year with Blackdown, which although was lots of fun, was not up there with my favourite Burial releases.
Antidawn is a brilliant work by a renowned producer, taking just a slightly different direction to what we are used to. The EP doesn’t provide you with tracks you’d play at afters or at the end of a set like ‘Come Down to Us’, ‘Claustro’ or ‘Archangel’ but it is an EP to wake up to that echoes the feeling of British winter in an urban environment. Although Burial’s earlier work is evocative of memories of rave and travelling back through London in rain from a night out, Antidawn marks a shift toward a different focus: daily modern life living in a city. This EP is beautiful, particularly in the eponymous track and ‘Shadow Paradise’, offering a release from bleak post-modern urban reality. Antidawn demonstrates the ever-evolving talent of one of the best producers of our age, crafting an evocative 43 minutes of impressive atmosphere.
Track Highlight: ‘Upstairs Flat’
Listen to Antidawn on Bandcamp here.