Antidawn may feel uneventful to the uninitiated, but for those who listen deeper, the rewards are rich.
The defining characteristic of William Bevan’s 5-track Antidawn — an EP in name only; this is his longest effort since 2007’s Untrue — is one of atmospheric ethereality, where the music is so weightless and measured that the basic act of listening becomes strenuous, an ordeal in attempting to hold onto anything of momentous note. The colorless soundscapes are sparse and desolate, lacking in tangible form and haunted by decaying, detailed textures (record crackles, warbled voices, dripping water, hissing pipes, clicking lighters, etc.) that fade in and out of the percussion-less mix at a moment’s notice, ones that help instill some semblance of organized structure. There’s a lot of negative space/breathing room on any given song here, to the point where serene silence becomes an integral part of the musical compositions themselves. There are a few melodies, but they’re hidden in plain sight, abstracted, and silently looping back around over and over again until their presence is finally felt by sheer repetition. The mood is, generally speaking, somber and sedated; the overall listening experience is frigid and gelid, akin to a long, solitary walk on a snowy winter night. Except, here, the environment feels more like a ghostly wasteland, once joyfully inhabited and now, ever so slowly, transitioning into a realm of deterioration, currently existing in an in-between state of being — especially fitting, given that Antidawn itself doesn’t neatly fit into any one predetermined category or genre (sound collage? field recording? ambient? electronic?). If definitive descriptors were required, then one could easily label this as Burial’s most patient, quiet, and experimental release thus far — and so, as it stands, it’s yet another curveball from our least calculable working musician.
Wading through this uncharted territory, at least on a first listen, can feel like an uneventful journey: the pay-offs provided aren’t that grandiose — usually culminating with billowing vocals or a sensory-charged element that slowly simmers — nor do they call much attention to themselves. The EP starts at 1 and, at the absolute max, ends on a 2.5. Compared to any number of scattered singles released before this extended play — or, to be fairer, the somber cuts from Untrue — Antidawn’s material could even seem outright boring when immediately contrasted to the likes of “Dog Shelter” or “Night Bus.” But since this is, again, a record defined by its sonic ambience, these types of judgment calls are a bit premature to lob after only one spin. Since the key aspects of each track are so amorphous and ambiguous in their temperament, each new listen allows for a different interpretation; the general oppressive vibe remains the same, but the granularity of each track unfurls with a different register each time. And so it’s ultimately up to the listener to derive meaning from apparent meaninglessness, to form their own connotations from the slivers of provided denotations (the cover art, however one interprets it, becomes a starting totem for this personal elucidation), and to venture through the unknown at their own pace and speed. It’s a bitter, cool expedition, a crossing not for the faint of heart; even for those willing to invest the needed time and attention, some additional consideration may still be required, but the rewards are rich.
Published as part of Album Roundup — January 2022 | Part 2.