If there is to be a time where it is universally acceptable for any music website to step out of it’s self-imposed genre restrictions it should be to speak on a new Burial release. The man transcends genre and makes music that is 98% mood and 2% flat out enjoyment whilst remaining 100% a mystery. It doesn’t matter who Burial is for the same reason it doesn’t matter what DOOM looks like these days; if he was an electrician from Lowestoft Tweeting every day about his beans on toast and giving interviews to NME the music just wouldn’t have the same power; a power it has carried at it’s core through every release in his catalogue. After the Four Tet rumours a few years ago, and the William Bevan Myspace hype, people are finally letting the music speak for itself; and on Rival Dealer it speaks clearly and confidently of change.
His style has expanded and warped incrementally on each new release over the last few years; always keeping a dark, atmospheric street sound that sits somewhere between uncomfortable and satisfyingly brooding. His wildly varying song length that toys with light melody juxtaposed with stark static shocks has always made for compelling listening; and when he plunders the depths of Davy Jones digital locker to unearth some seriously heavy low frequencies that would make a brown note need a fresh pair; you know you’re in for some serious musical experiences with any new Burial release. In the past he’s dropped Two deservedly lauded LP’s with his eponymous début and the essential follow-up Untrue, and last year’s excellent Truant/Rough Sleeper EP somehow sounded even more like a cityscape at night than his previous works. Yasiin Bey’s “I can feel the city breathing, chest heaving, against the flesh of the evening” is the only phrase that comes close when trying to describe a sound that’s so thick it’s like a future-garage fog. This year he’s taken the perceived parameters that confine his sound and obliterated them; making music for the first time that sounds happy. That’s right, HAPPY, not a word most would link to Burial. Rival Dealer only offers a small slither of light in an otherwise predominantly despondent discography, but it’s upbeat vibes, gleaming keyboard melodies, uplifting vocal samples and inspiring quotes all make this new Burial experience something worth dedicating your full attention to. It’s rare to find music rooted in the past, yet presented in future tense that isn’t relying on throwback appeal to move units.
The title track is my favourite new song the producer has released in years; it tumultuously rolls at breakneck pace, billowing smoky, industrial sounds that steamroller ahead insuppressibly. It’s even structured relatively ‘normally’, and doesn’t suffer from his tendency to purposely end ideas prematurely, as is the case with some of his other Ten minute overtures. That’s not to say he’s sticking to the script for the songs duration; in the first 7 minutes he keeps every new musical avenue he takes you down rooted within the loosely defined realm established with the initial rhythm, but surreptitiously guides the track onto an even more claustrophobic and labyrinthine course. His use of female vocal melody is upfront and more satisfying than ever, and he manages to tick all boxes that define his past greats without boxing himself in. Trance-like ambience and light melody lift and build the musical space once the first rhythm melts into some jazzy lines; then the whole track begins a slow amble towards it’s demise, like slowly wading into a sonic sea to willingly submit to the current.
Hiders begins the real sense of movement within the music; opening with huge piano chords straight out of a heavily hairsprayed 80’s rom-com prom scene finale. The presence of fresh influence becomes undeniable when the beat fully kicks in; with it’s unashamed flair and vivid disco imagery you’d be hard pressed not to daydream about shellsuits or be reminded of what the Drive soundtrack could’ve sounded like in less cheesy hands. The tom sounds and drum rolls echo the pomposity of the era it derives influence from, and Burial’s confidence in his more exploratory endeavours leaves the last track wide open as to where he might take the EP next.
Fans of his self-titled LP will recognize the Indian-influenced essence of U Hurt Me on the final track Come Down To Me; he quickly sheds his previous preoccupation with dwelling musically in the dumps and turns his trademark overcast sound into a glimmering ray of hope. Synth lines delicately lift the mood with pop inspired autotuned vocals and a bell pattern that captures the film scores-of-yesteryear feel. As the piece moves and moods change, he reaches back into the doldrums and digs out some shadowy samples and a distorted bass sound that brings his machine-influenced percussive patterns with it. By the time the winding sitar shifts back into an insidious version of the main theme the song’s fully sounding like the best Nightmare On Elm Street remake soundtrack you’ve never heard. The second movement is even more triumphant, conga patterns, delicate female vocals, euphoric synths and choir harmonies give it more of a kinship with world music than it’s more grimey underground counterparts in the garage and dub scene, and it’s crescendo ends the EP on a high note; after a highly interesting 28 minutes with one of modern music’s most enigmatic producers.
Kode 9’s Hyperdub label will distribute the EP on Vinyl, CD and MP3 on December the 16th; If you don’t have massive speakers or headphones go and buy some; then buy Rival Dealer.