Burial – Streetlands
It’s eerie how timeous ANTIDAWN, the dystopian ambient album Burial dropped at the start of the year, was in hindsight. Inspired by playable character POVs in videogames, ANTIDAWN was an experiment that found itself in barren, ghostly, and decaying noise. Not long after the world heard the enigmatic UK producer’s ravaged soundscapes, the world was again barraged with the images and sounds of war, something it seemed ANTIDAWN had hinted toward. More of an experience than an album, ANTIDAWN marked a new phase for Burial with its complete pivot away from minimal club sounds and embrace of the austere atmospherics that have always formed the backbone of his work. Streetlands, an EP which arrived out of the blue last week, continues where ANTIDAWN left off, expanding the sonic universe of its predecessor.
Streetlands opens with the sparse Hospital Chapel, the static crunches of a body moving in space setting the scene. Waves of echoing drones slide in and out like whale song, culminating in distant choral intonations. The title track, and longest soundscape on the EP, sees Burial working again in ANTIDAWN’s videogame style. Snatches of breath, mumbles of dialogue, and the faint patter of rain and footsteps on the ground suggest that the listener is experiencing Streetlands from the perspective of a PC. The soundscape moves through phases of stirring drones and ethereal chimes, with passages of a nursery rhyme sung in a strange dialect and deep, primordial chanting suggesting that we are exploring the terrain and territories of a strange, dystopian society. It’s markedly more romantic than ANTIDAWN, which often felt oppressive in its bleakness. Here, Burial is reaching for the mystical, a new approach in his otherwise icy cannon. He aims for moments of transcendence, enlightenment even, with Streetlands never being weighed down by its dampness. Exokind extends Burial further beyond his borders. The composition is full of retro sci-fi arpeggios, modular squabbles that shoot Streelands up into the cosmos. Bulgarian folk chants are folded into the vortex, a meshing of the ancient with the futuristic that makes for something quite arresting.
Streetlands is perhaps the furthest Burial has ever sounded from himself. While it retains his signature bleakness, its lack of discernible rhythms and beats that continue the theory of ANTIDAWN suggests that the artist has shifted his approach. It’s strange, chilling, and adventurous, though whether Streetlands, and for that matter ANTIDAWN, belongs in the same house as the dancefloor abstractions of classic Burial is up for debate. It wouldn’t be remiss to not call this music, per se. These are works of sweeping cinema without moving pictures, fables written in sound rather than words. Wherever Burial is now, it’s miles away from the rave, its influence heard only in shadows from another time and place. This distance allows him to explore his narrative instincts in an all encompassing fashion, pushing him from visionary to auteur, and maybe it’s exactly where he needs to be.
Listen to Exokind from Streetlands below.