Burial, Street Halo EP


Photo by Moises Saman, courtesy of the New York Times

[Hyperdub]


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It’s almost impossible to discuss Burial’s music without addressing the insane hype that follows him. Even after the rumors and gossip about his identity were put to rest and Kode9 had burned copies of The Sun, the hype lingered. Even after the young man named Will Bevan wrote, “I’m a low-key person and I just want to make some tunes, nothing else,” on his blog, every scrap of sound rumored to be Burial was picked apart, analyzed, and worshiped, and still the hype kept going. When the news of this solo EP showed up recently on Dubstepforum.com, the thread exploded with 800,000+ views in a week. The recently passed April Fools’ Day brought Burial spoofs from two prominent music websites to much frustration from label and fans. How can anyone possibly live up to this expectation? On Street Halo, his first new release in four years, Burial seemingly shrugs it off and hews closely to what he’s done before, particularly his Mercury Prize-nominated sophomore album, Untrue.

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Where Burial’s self-titled debut was a minimal and dark meditation on the garage rhythms popular just a few years before, Untrue was more dense and upbeat, with pronounced vocal elements and melodies. “Street Halo” feels kin to Untrue, even while it upends the loping characteristics of garage for inflections of house. In some ways, Burial has been working his way outwards from the dubstep sound with which he is so often associated. The beat is more rigid, the melodies syncopated, and overall there is a harder edge to this release. While it feels like a slight progression from Untrue, some may be disappointed that it’s a bit Burial-by-the-numbers otherwise. Crackle and twisted vocals are prominent like usual, the drums sounds themselves skeletal and dry. However, it all adds up to a sound that is just as distinctive as before it became popularized, and indeed, the sameness is comforting. Burial has not fallen into the trap of changing his style for change’s sake.

Similar to how “Street Halo” feels like a house update of Untrue, “NYC” could fit in along with Burial‘s more obviously garage-influenced music. It’s also Burial’s longest track to date, clocking in it an expansive and luxurious seven-and-a-half minutes. The first minute is almost purely drumless, and when the stark drums do come in they stutter and falter in broken tangles, finally resolving into the rhythm that propels the next six minutes. Synth strings swell in beds of reverb as the twisted vocal samples strive to work more as an actual vocal here, not just an intermittent chorus. You can almost follow the verses, but as ever they remain slightly out of reach when you turn your ear towards them. The last 40 seconds of “NYC” feel like the subway tunnels from which they most likely take their name, cavernous, dirty, and full of fog.

Where Four Tet’s There Is Love In You obviously took some inspiration from Burial, this EP’s standout track “Stolen Dog” takes it’s melodic cues from the former. There is a wistful and gentle quality to the closing track that sets it apart from most of his output, and shows a true maturation in style. The simple but higher pitched melody works perfectly with the heavily processed vocal elements it entwines. The percussion hearkens back to his earlier minimal experiments, with almost overwhelming amounts of grit and crackle sandwiched between melody and bass. This song is aimed squarely at the headphones and not at the club, perhaps Burial’s closest brush with a type of cinematic ballad. Notable not only for it’s break from garage’s jittery rhythms and less-is-more approach, the track’s melodic development stands a head taller than much of his previous work. In all of the talk about Burial, one thing is genuinely overlooked: his music usually relies on mood to mask its simplicity. On “Stolen Dog,” however, he exhibits an extremely deft hand at pure composition. Until the next round of hype comes, the Street Halo EP is a mixed bag of old, new, and different, perhaps an indication of music to come or maybe a handful of tracks that finally clicked into place for the shy producer. One thing is for sure, he will continue to be an artist whose career is tracked closely and fervently.

Lornajane  on April 20, 2011 at 9:08 PM

beautiful

Trackbacks

Little White Earbuds April Charts 2011 | Little White Earbuds  on December 11, 2011 at 6:31 PM

[…] [Ostgut Ton] 03. Hitsafe, “Let The Acid Out” (Tin Man Remix) [Shaddock Records] 04. Burial, “Stolen Dog” [Hyperdub] 05. Reggie Dokes, “Haiti” [Royal Oak] 06. Kenton Slash Demon, […]

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