Son Raw’s going, going, back, back to Cali, Cali.
Burial is an anomaly. You get the impression that the Mercury Prize for Untrue and the adoration from the Aphex Twin crowd were more bother than reward for a shadowy producer who grew up on Jungle and Garage on UK pirate radio and just wanted to make tunes in his bedroom. But Burial’s secret is that he isn’t actually making dance music per say, he refracts the sounds and memories of ancient raves and radio broadcasts into achingly beautiful compositions whose appeal is almost proportionately inverse to the giddy, wild party music he draws inspiration from.
The appeal to the electronica crowd may be accidental, but it’s very much there. After a few years in silence — presumably to let the hype dissipate — he returned last year with Street Halo, a long-delayed single for Hyperdub. And if catalogue numbers are to be believed, Kindred is his first new solo work in ages. It’s also his finest.
Burial’s mediation of rave music is his secret weapon: by making tunes that imitate the distorted haze of illegal broadcasts and third generation tape packs, he can get away with far more than your typical dance floor oriented producer. His most common tricks – skippy 2-step drums, sampled R&B vocals and hazy ambient atmospheres, have been stolen ad-nauseum by a generation of soulless Future-Garage producers, but Kindred immediately puts the comparisons to rest: no one sounds like Burial. Stretching over 30 minutes to form a suite of music that’s at once frighteningly physical and painfully earnest, Kindred is more album than single even if it isn’t labeled as such. The release may be sudden and low key but this feels like music that’s been in the making for years.
After a short ambient introduction that sounds like a stereo playing ambient music that’s been shot and buried in gravel, the title track opens with the most aggressive drums Burial’s ever written. A swirling, evil growler recalling the madness of early darkcore rave, it’s an immediate reminder that for all his wistful nostalgia, Burial’s music was as physical as anything emerging out of London in 2006.
Slowly building into a morass of R&B vocals and distorted chords, it’s a musical tempest, rising and falling over its 11 minutes before finally fading into “Loner.” A tense, driving number, it’s easily the most direct piece of music on the number and the rare Burial track with functional appeal within a club context, provided you can find a club with people crazy enough to dance to it.
Finally, after an ambient interlude, “Ashtray Wasp” brings us home with perhaps the most daring R&B sampling of Burial’s career as battling vocals collapse into each other over into an orgasmic mess that never resolves as much as it fades into a short, minimalist outro.
Ynsurprisingly, this Burial release sounds like…a Burial release. What’s surprising is that after half a decade and innumerable biters, Kindred still sounds as fresh and exciting as anything the man’s ever released, rivaling his two LPs in terms of quality and depth.
It just goes to show that in a field of constant reinvention where the next big thing’s average lifespan is shorter than a fruit fly’s, there’s still a place for well crafted, timeless music built on ideas and emotions rather than cheap tricks and trends. Dropping a day before you-know-who won a bunch of Grammies, it’s also a victory for listeners who remember the days when Dubstep asked 99 questions but Benny Bennasi wasn’t one of them. Don’t let the “single” tag fool you, this is the Burial album you’ve been waiting for, as dark and hidden from view as you’d want it to be.