Friday, December 14, 2007

Burial - Untrue


Burial, "Archangel" (YSI link)

Burial, "Untrue" (YSI link)

I'm about to embark on one of the biggest/scariest moments of my life, it's raining and miserable and I'm physically and mentally exhausted [ed. note: I wrote most of this yesterday when it was raining and I was embarking on said moment]. I can't think of a better time to jump back into dubstep by taking a look at its most acclaimed artist, Burial? Actually, I probably should be doing a post on love songs or brainless sugar pop tunes, but whatever.

Burial's Untrue is his second LP on Hyperdub and an immediate contender for album of the year. It's a really stunning achievement, picking up the corpse of trip-hop & UK Garage and lacing with huge subbass, skittering rhythms and detached, smeared soul/R&B vocals. It's those vocals that leave the most lasting impression, disembodied sounds longing, searching, hoping to connect but failing repeatedly. Check the sampled, robotic voices on "Archangel," which seem to be conversing. One asks "If I trust you" repeatedly to no answer, which fits the dark, unfulfilled nature of the music. Burial also adds these haunting effects deep in the mix, whether the crackling, rain-like ones on "Untrue" or the creepy wind sounds on "Archangel," that only add to the dark, sinister mood. All in all, the album is more focused than the excellent, self-titled debut, perhaps a reflection of Burial's confidence in his sound, avoiding more standard dubstep songs here.

I referenced dubstep and the album has come out on its premier label, but it's not a place to start with that genre. In fact, this album really seems to have as much in common with Massive Attack as it does with Skream, which isn't a bad thing. The pacing is different, the bass isn't as massive, a bit more melancholic and neurotic. I don't have as much knowledge of UK Garage, but what I have heard makes me think that that may be the biggest influence. The breakbeats and r&b vocals, however, are mutated by Burial's reverb and pitch-shifting, as he plays with time like its cotton candy. Creepy cotton candy, though, not the girl-y pink shit. Some have referred to it as futuristic soul, or Massive Attack for 2020, give it a listen and see what you come up with.

I can't recommend this one more highly, one of the best albums of the year from what I can remember. Like The Knife last year, this album heads into the darkness with various genres and comes out with a classic, although not in the dancefloor sense. This is for those late-night subway rides or nights in your room with the headphones in, when it's dark and things seem a little unsure. Buy your copy now, no hesitation. Check this cool interview with Burial conducted by Kode9, plus this excellent review by Phillip Sherburne for Pitchfork (okay, he's a way better reviewer than me, get over yourselves!)

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