Burial’s ‘Dolphinz’ is an ambient deep dive into dystopian themes

Image by Georgina Cook

There’s always been a sense of overt otherness about Burial. The London producer’s work often feels focused from the outside; a voyeur to the dance floor rather than the dance floor itself. It is this point of view that positions Burial as an infamously elusive practitioner, one who haunts the world that informs him rather than commands it. This outsider perspective makes the work even more intriguing, and has largely informed Burial‘s subsequent reputation as a visionary. Consider the late 2020 offering, Chemz, as evidence of Burial’s role as the hyper aware observer looking in. The 12 minute long pastiche of garage breaks and rave hooks spun an urgent dirge to the dance floor at a time when club culture began to feel like a distant fever dream. It is the sort of art making so acutely aware of the zeitgeist, that it may as well have been manifested by our collective consciousness as a conduit for catharsis. Released via Hyperdub, Dolphinz is the long-awaited B-side to Chemz and continues the cathartic journey in what appears to be a startlingly different direction. 

Dolphinz is more an exercise in sound design than song, a droning ambient wash studded with desolate, manipulated dolphin sounds and ASMR leaning vocal touches that continue Burial’s preoccupation with the dystopian. It is a deep, oceanic soundscape that over the course of 9 minutes brilliantly showcases Burial’s ability as a sonic auteur. On the surface, Dolphinz presents as a complete left-turn from Chemz. Looking further though, it becomes apparent that the sound of Dolphinz is the same mournful urgency that runs through its counterpart, pulled out by Burial and stripped of its beats and flourishes. The turn towards introspection is telling of Burial’s current thematic concerns, recalling the emotional revelations of Dark Gethsemane off his recent collaborative EP with fellow London producer Blackdown, Shock Power of Love.

Dolphinz is the spiritual backbone of Chemz presented at its sparsest. Experienced side by side, Dolphinz continues the dance floor dirge by sinking you into its wake and surrendering the body you find in the hardcore breakbeat of Chemz to the mercy of your mind. It ruminates on Chemz’s memories of club scenes and strobe lights, revealing an emotional core that is deftly human and at the centre of why we mourn the ritual of dancing together. All this while somehow still functioning as an absurd ode to the creatures of its namesake. 

Dolphinz and Chemz are both available as digital singles and on 12” vinyl, here. Listen to both below:

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