Burial – ‘ANTIDAWN’ EP review: enigma returns with videogame-style ambient immersion

The lesser-spotted artist builds knife-edge tension with an eerie, five-song collection that brings to mind suspenseful horror series Silent Hill

The music made by electronic enigma Burial – who has maintained cult status ever since his self-titled 2006 debut and 2007’s ‘Untrue’ – has long occupied a singular space of eerie electronic ambience. In that sense, then, the London producer’s new EP, ‘Antidawn’, is quintessential Burial – but there’s far more to it than that.

Reducing the Burial sound, as the EP’s accompanying statement puts it, “just to just the vapours”, ‘ANTIDAWN’ contains some of his most sparse and haunting creations to date. Compared to December 2021’s ‘Chemz’, a rave-ready 12-minute fusion of breaks-heavy UK garage, ’90s hardcore and pitch-shifted repetitive vocal samples, and the dusty ‘Her Revolution’, a soft and yearning track with Four Tet and Thom Yorke, ‘ANTIDAWN’ occupies an entirely different space in the Burial world.

The listener is instead immersed in an open-world of ambience; across its five meandering tracks, faint vocal snippets are laid over a static near-silence. The mysterious cloaked figure who adorns the EP’s cover sets the scene, inviting the listener into Burial’s imagined fantasy world – or “wintertime city”, as he has called it – via powerful ritualistic imagery.

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After the main character is spawned into an ominous location, via the crackles and cough of ominous opener ‘Strange Neighbourhood’, the title track calls to mind the suspenseful scores of PlayStation games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil and those hours spent tentatively creeping around corners, fearful of the danger that might be lurking in the shadows. The few lyrics present – “nowhere to go”, pitch-shifted to a trapped childlike plea and a male voice admitting, “I’ve been a bad place” – act as lonely phrases, painting an increasingly chilling picture.

Halfway through ‘ANTIDAWN’, however, lies a glimmer of light thanks to the more hopeful ‘Shadow Paradise’, whose emotive organ chords and repeated vocal of “let me hold you” allude to a happy conclusion; this continued via the wind-chimes and quickening pace of ‘New Love’. Although ‘Upstairs Flat’ is sonically harrowing, the sharp instruments reminiscent of the build-up to a jump-scare cut-scene near a game’s end, its talk of finding “loving arms” stops it from veering back into horror territory. Instead, after nearly an hour, it seems as though the imagined protagonist has made it out alive.

Although ‘ANTIDAWN’ isn’t by any means an easy listen or an EP made for casual ears, the level of intricate detail and world-building achieved proves that, more than a decade since his arrival, nobody does immersive electronica quite like Burial.

Details

Release date: January 6

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Record label: Hyperdub

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