ALBUM IN A SENTENCE: BURIAL LETS THE LISTENER WALK A MILE IN HIS SHOES.
Have you ever had that feeling where you feel like you’ve stumbled on the hook of a great hit song? You’re alone, pacing down a street. You have no studio, no backing band, no beat apart from the shuffle of your footsteps. All you have is a killer hook. In your hands and between your ears, one line of magic that keeps repeats, swelling and subsiding, undulating like the dancefloor it will one day inevitably slay. It must inevitably slay. It is a great hook and, in this phosphorescent moment, it belongs only to you. Except, it’s not a great hook, is it? It’s just a thing stuck in your head. And the lightshow is a streetlamp in the rain that a tree has grown around. The siren that seemed to fit perfectly into the mix Doppler-effects down the street. And you’re alone, and the song is ‘I’ve been in a bad place with nowhere to go.’ You’re lonely and a long walk from home.
The promotional material describes Antidawn, the new 43 minute EP from Burial, as exploring ‘an interzone between dislocated, patchwork songwriting and eerie open-world, game space ambience’. That means it sounds a bit like the description above. The five tracks on the EP attempt to capture something of the reality of walking after dark in winter. There’s no wonderland of snow and ice, but there is a wind through a subway as footsteps walk away. Vinyl crackles as raindrops. Like Robert Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night’, Burial keeps walking to the place where ‘the time was neither wrong nor right.’
Lyrics weave together as samples and snippets, the barest fragments holding tracks together. There are moments, on ‘Shadow Paradise’ and ‘New Love’, when Burial brings a beat and reminds that he could hold a crowd captive with a twist of a little finger. More often, beats are muffled like they are pounding inside someone else’s car, or the party is on the train heading out of the city.
Whether it is because the clubs are shut, or for some more personal reason, Antidawn keeps its distance and prefers open spaces. It’s a walking album, which means it’s a hoodies and headphones album. What is precious about Antidawn is that it places you inside the headphones, beneath the essential defensive outer layers of mask and hood. There is a generosity in Burial, almost literally, inviting you to walk a mile in his shoes. The fragmentary approach to track building is tender and vulnerable, like a visual artist sharing their sketchbooks.
While Antidawn sometimes almost shivers with the dark and the cold, it is always drawn towards light, warmth and human companionship. As ‘Upstairs Flat’ says, ‘You’re somewhere in the darkest night / I wanna be there.’ The skill of Burial in presenting these tracks is the ability to capture both sides of the winter night. The freedom and fear, the momentary, abstract, flickering nature of beauty, are not romanticised, but painted with bleak honesty but deep heart.