Burial’s back with his seasonal gift of a new EP and it’s already ruffling feathers. Ever secretive and flawless in his output, Will Bevan has produced a majestic and heartbreaking EP that reveals more about Burial the person than any previous output.
Before announcing the Rival Dealer EP last week, Burials output, post-Untrue, has been a stream of EP’s which have all experimented, successfully, with pushing the length of his tracks over the 10 minute mark. The last official release was his Truant/Rough Sleeper EP released almost exactly a year ago. ‘Truant’ and ‘Rough Sleeper’ were barely structured extensions of previous Burial output and there were whispers of a limitation to his sound. Rival Dealer blows these whispers out of the water and into the atmosphere as Burial takes his trademark sound to whole new levels.
The first of three tracks, ‘Rival Dealer’ starts with the typical static and traffic combination you expect, before a barely there alarm like synth line in the background grows in volume as a female sample implores that she is “gonna love you more than anyone”. A short break, then the same female voice whispers – “this is who I am” and the drums kick in with a garage beat that is as intense as anything Burial has ever put music to. In an interview with FACT from years back, Burial said “I’m too young to have ever gone to a warehouse rave, but I want to show the ravers that someone is still holding a light for that old sound…that the signal is still out there.” ‘Rival Dealer’ is without doubt the track that can be best correlated with this statement of intent. The track breaks down at around the 5 minute mark and a new beat takes over that is no less aggressive and intense before it peels itself apart into another vocal sample. The yawn-inducing ‘rainy night bus at 4am’ descriptions of Burial are a distant memory, and this is only the first track.
‘Hiders’ is the least ‘Burial’ track he has ever released. Opening with a sample of a Liverpudlian male saying, “There’s a kid somewhere”. What kid? Is Burial reminding people he is a kid? Has Burial had a child? So many questions arise and before you can process them, a piano quietly plays a riff in the background. Far too uplifting for Burial, another vocal sample and the piano disappears before coming back with the realisation that this is the focal point of the song. It’s a heartbreaking riff over static and glowing synths and “I will always protect you” vocal snatches. It’s beautiful and goes in a complete new direction to what we expect from the dark palette of Burial. Then something insane happens again. A ridiculous cheesy upbeat drum beat kicks in after a silence and Burial has inadvertently made an incredible heartbreaking pop song for all of 20 seconds before it abruptly stops and draws out static and a churning bass line until the final track.
‘Come Down To Us’ continues the use of vocal samples in its intro. Samples have always been a major part of Burial’s work but Rival Dealer seems to have so much of a coherent theme of identity and sexuality that is rarely seen in Burial’s past work. In a rare public statement, Burial texted into Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC 6Music show to explain that he “wanted the tunes to be anti-bullying tunes that could maybe help someone to believe in themselves, to not be afraid, and to not give up, and to know that someone out there cares and is looking out for them”. It’s easy to see especially as ‘Come Down To Us’ uses a sample from a speech by filmmaker Lana Wachowski, a transgender woman, at the 2012 Human Rights Campaign gala. The track slowly rolls along with a distinctive sitar line repeating in the background. Much like the opening track, ‘Come Down To Us’ completely switches direction mid-way through and the vocals become centre stage decorated by a jingling synth until the EP unfurls, the Wachowski sample plays and we fade into static.
This EP raises more questions about its creator than any previous release. The change in direction has shown Burial to be an immensely talented producer and one who is unafraid to carve a new path. Purists will be repelled by the increased focus on vocals and more upbeat and intense nature of the tracks. Burial is such an influential player in the music scene; it will be interesting to see where other producers will go from here after such a monumental statement from one of music’s great mysteries.
By Joni Roome