Reviewing a new Burial record is never easy. When an artist ties together some of the most ground breaking British electronic music from over two decades of dancefloor experiments, to try and give a decent overview of just three new tracks, without over-egging the pudding as it were, is quite a task. One must remember that Burial’s music stems from the dancefloor, and will always return to the dancefloor – it’s the UK’s purest vision of soundsystem semantics yet.
South London’s Will Bevan has been a staple part of the UK’s underground make-up for seven years now, his initial releases on Kode9’s then fledgling label coming like time-warped barometers of another universe, encapsulating both a bewitchingly alien emotional palette, and a familiar, apparitional functionality that made them deadly additions to the then small community of focussed dubstep heads sporadically spread throughout his own capital city.
With ‘Kindred’ then, we’re faced with the first solo material since last April’s ‘Street Halo’, a three track EP released, as ever, with no real prior warning, by Hyperdub Records, the label that has delighted in throwing up curveballs since it first made the jump from blog to label back in 2004 with Kode9’s own ‘Sine Of The Dub’ (shortly followed by Burial’s ‘South London Boroughs’ and ‘Distant Lights’ extended players).
The title track of the new EP is probably the most out and out ‘classic’ Burial track on offer here, with the snapping broken junglist rhythm, all unsheathed knives, distant sparked lighters and reversed metallic noise, throwing up memories of the sheer thrill of first hearing those two initial releases, whilst the rumbling bass foundation comes across as a deeply physical mixture of thunder, smothered reese effects and stone-on-stone tectonics. A familiar sound palette then, except this is Burial in Widescreen, a track that consumes everything we’ve made familiar about the artist, yet adds more, stretching the depth, the background, the canvas on which the beats and bass interplay into it’s own complete universe – a trick touched on in minor form with album track ‘Homeless’ from 2007’s globally successful long player ‘Untrue’.
‘Loner’ perhaps sees the recent collaborative work with Massive Attack, Thom Yorke and Four Tet take a hold, as a shuffling, stepping house beat is overridden by insistent, arpeggiated synth work, yet the seven minute work out is a panoramic view, offering a starkly futuristic anthem that as ever, reflects the current UK underground’s leaning towards classic electro, mid-90s electronica and more traditionally classified house music, yet with a dark, mechanical twist.
Closing track ‘Ashtray Wasp’ is, to these ears, the stand out track here. An eleven minute epic that has to rank as one of Burial’s most emotionally affecting tracks to date – which is saying something. An almost limitless array of vocal snippets, treated samples and wall-of-sound airspace backed with unfathomable layers of reverb, vinyl crackles, pops, chiming melodies – all the staple effects yet, mixed with at times almost trance-like oscillating synths, before disappearing into the latter two thirds of split garage chapters – essentially two whole other tracks of pitched down and tightly wound balladry.
From the man who once described his music as “like a night cry, an angel animal”, as ever its about poetry here, not mechanics. Burial’s music has always been as entwined with the dancefloors of London as any one single artist’s output could be. From past jungle institutions like Rage at Charring Cross, to the unknown locations of classic drum & bass and garage pirates like Kool FM and Flex FM, through to the dubstep and grime strongholds of Brixton and Hackney in the last decade, Bevan’s music holds up a mirror to the physical aesthetic and sociological experience of what it is to follow the capital’s wealth of pirate radio culture.
With the ‘Kindred’ EP, he’s gone beyond this and finally stepped out from under his own nervous shadow. Clocking in at almost half an hour, ‘Kindred’s opus lets go of the strict 2-step and jungle realms, and firmly slingshots itself into the ether, resulting in a record that he may well find hard to beat.
The ‘Kindred’ EP is available now via Hyperdub Records.