There's a temptation to allow Burial's vastly influential 2007 album 'Untrue' to obscure the rest of his work.
With its grey-flecked 2-step and bittersweet rave nostalgia, the record's interpolation of club tropes to produce something innately personal made it a modern classic, spawning a legion of imitators.
Indeed, its impact is such that Burial has shied away from creating a follow up, with the subsequent decade of music peppered by one off releases, EPs, and other projects.
Amid this debris, though, can be found striking aesthetic moves, with the reclusive London producer continually accepting new influences, new styles, to keep his sound overhauled and ahead of the curve.
Pursuing deeply personal aims and achievements, each release feels like a message in a bottle, with his latest - 'Claustro' / 'State Forest' - landing on Hyperdub this month.
Clash writer Clarke Geddes delves into Burial's latter-day labyrinth...
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Burial + Four Tet - 'Nova'
For those eagerly awaiting a Burial and Four Tet album for all these years, tracks like ‘Nova’ and the equally mesmerising ‘Moth’ show good reason.
Combining Burial’s trademark glitchy beauty with Four Tet’s more danceable side, ‘Nova’ is a thing of true wonder. Giving the feeling of constant motion by a subtle groove and sweet vocals, it builds into a masterful electronic symphony, before gorgeous waves of synths come washing over you for the last five minutes. It’s the sound of two masterminds at the top of their game.
The only downside being that you’ll be pining for future collabs forevermore.
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'Kindred' ('Kindred' EP)
The moment when Burial took his trademark sound and pushed it into an epic, 12- minute master class. It opens slowly; waves of extra terrestrial noise and breaks of thunder giving way to a haunting melody, followed by the recurrent trademark vocal beamed in from another planet.
But just as you’re easing into the serene beauty of it all, the hard, cold break-beats kick in, creating a slow-paced jungle shuffle. Mixing sounds of such beauty with stark, break-neck beats has always been one of Burial’s best talents, and on ‘Kindred’ it’s simply harder, heavier, and more devastating somehow.
It’s ambitious, challenging, and most importantly, heartbreakingly beautiful.
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'Hiders' ('Rival Dealer' EP)
In keeping with his fascinating use of R&B sampling, 2013’s ‘Hiders’ featured the spliced vocal tones of Miguel, taken from his ‘Adorn’ single, released the previous year. Being Burial, he took the smooth ballad and created his own world of sonic bliss. Beginning with the sound of rain lashing the streets, a moving piano part gives way to the vocal, intertwined with what sounds like falling bullets, ghostly echoes and wayward alien clatters.
It’s a good example of Burial's sampling wizardry, which can lean toward film as much as music. It’s also a profoundly moving piece, yet again.
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This fan favourite may have slipped under many peoples radar since its upload in 2009. The unreleased track can be found lurking on Youtube after Hyperdub honcho Kode 9 had it aired on 1Xtra. It’s classic early Burial, and towards the end of the track you can also hear Kode 9 discussing his working methods with Burial, which he describes as being “like ping pong, my favourite sport”. Another great track which may one day feature on a full release, and however unlikely, we can only hope.
As Kode 9 says toward the end of the track, “maybe never”.
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'Stolen Dog' ('Street Halo' Single)
As with all Burial tracks, ‘Stolen Dog’ would be best heard in sequence with the other tracks of any given EP or album. But as it stands, this B-side from ‘Street Halo' is another highlight. It’s an ambient slow-burner, Burials trademark syncopated rim shots and hi hat clicks building into a subtle groove as the track unfolds.
As ever, its beautiful, almost like a lullaby, but with bursts of ghostly clatters and demons looming in the background. It’s also what makes Burials sound so instantly distinctive through the years, the sound of demons warring with angels.
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'Rival Dealer' ('Rival Dealer' EP)
Burial kicked off 2014 with this long awaited release, which took some by surprise. It’s still unmistakably Burial, but after the intro come the dark, eastern strings, the claustrophobic hisses whirling through your headphones, and then the Metalheadz beats; and you know things are moving up a notch.
It’s menacing, danceable and dark. It builds in to a techno thunderstorm, the sound of a Berlin club being looted at 8am. But as he’s become celebrated at doing of late, the 11 minute epic doesn’t end there, and half way through we’re greeted with one of his most emotive outros to date.
Like a night out condensed into 11 minutes, he leaves us with thunderclouds crackling, lush ambient strings, and vocal samples running wild. A shift in sound from ‘Untrue’, for sure. His sound moving into new territories.
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'Loner' ('Kindred' EP)
There’s no doubt Burial’s sound has become darker with recent EPs, and ‘Loner’ is no exception. There’s an angry, low-end sabotage at play within the rib-quaking bass and beats, taking influence from all corners of the electronic sphere.
What sounds like canisters being fired into a wall of white noise, ‘Loner’ isn’t for the faint hearted. Like an electronic rail against society, Burials music takes the ethos of punk and smashes it into his own sonic palette.
Yet there’s always an almost two-dimensional world at play, and ‘Loner’ is no exception. The teaser outro is sublime, featuring a sample from Stranger In Moscow (perhaps the inspiration for the title).
It’s also far too short, but hey, that’s life.
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'Claustro' / 'State Forest' will be released through Hyperdub on June 14th.
Words: Clarke Geddes
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