Burial may just be one of the most elusive producers ever. He stepped into the scene in 2006 with his self-titled debut album, which had garnered critical acclaim, including being named “Album of the Year” by The Wire magazine. His 2007 album, “Untrue”, proved to be even more popular, containing pitch-shifted and time-stretched vocal samples over experimental ambient, 2-step, and dubstep compositions filled with strange percussion rhythms, low basslines, and ambient atmospheres covered in fuzz and cobwebs. That album in particular was named the third-best album of the decade by Resident Advisor, the #1 album in FACT magazine’s “Top 100 Albums of the Decade”, received a rare 5 star rating from Allmusic.com, and was the second-highest rated album of the year according to Metacritic. What makes this dubstep producer’s music even more mysterious, though, is the producer himself. Until 2008, he was anonymous to the entire world, being known only as Burial. He has never done a DJ gig, live performance, or radio show, rarely grants interviews, and only a few images exist of him, which have been obscured to conceal his identity. In fact, he claims that only five people outside of his family know that he makes music. However, in 2008, it was revealed that Burial was the alias of William Bevan, who was an alumnus of South London’s Elliot School, which has also been attended by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and Kieran Hebden, also known as Four Tet, with whom Bevan has collaborated with. After his name was revealed, very few releases have come out since, the most notable being his collaborations with Four Tet, as well as the most recent split single collaboration “Ego / Mirror” with Four Tet and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. However, after 4 years, an EP by Burial, named “Street Halo”, has finally been released. The question that everyone is asking now is whether or not Burial’s sound has evolved, or whether it has changed completely. Luckily, it is safe to say that overall, “Street Halo” is an evolution of the sound in terms of new sounds and rhythms to add to the palette, but it does not stray drastically from the fuzzy sounds and rhythms that Burial is known for creating.
The first track, “Street Halo”, shows a bit of evolution in Burial’s sound. An ambient techno beat plays underneath an unsettling yet beautiful synthesizer riff in the beginning, which is different than the experimental 2-step beats that Burial is usually known for. Distant vocal samples, atmospheric ambient noises, crackles, and low basslines are still present on this track as they are in most of Burial’s work, but the beat is what shows the evolution in Burial’s sound, being influenced more by house and techno than garage and dubstep. Also, the bassline sound is a bit different that the airy and thick basslines on “Untrue”, but are still great anyway. The ending is also beautiful, containing different ambient sounds, pads, and vocals than we’ve known Burial to use before. Overall, any Burial fan won’t be disappointed, since most of the elements that we fell in love with in Burial’s music are still present and strong as ever on this track. The evolution in the sound palette is even what makes the music more exciting, and well, since it is new Burial material, should we be expecting the same old sounds from Burial, even if it is what makes his music so different? A great starting track to the EP.
“NYC” starts with ambient rumbles and noises that may sound closer to a rainy day in the city. The beat is in the style we’ve known Burial for using: experimental 2-step/dubstep rhythms that make the song different from most music of its kind, though after the middle of the track, a four-to-the-floor house kick can be heard alongside the experimental rhythms. Vocal samples, industrial samples, ambient pads, and bass can also be found on the track as well. Just like the first track, it is nice to hear some new Burial material that is even in the same style that he is known for, which shows that even if his sound has evolved, it hasn’t changed too much from the style that we know him for. The last track, “Stolen Dog”, contains a skipping drum rhythm, ambient pads, and vocal samples covered in fuzz and reverb, which together sound very beautiful, but also simultaneously melancholic and sad. Furthermore, and just to make an interesting note, at times, the rhythm reminds me of the song “Moth”, which Burial and Four Tet collaborated together on in 2009’s split EP release, “Wolf Cub / Moth”. In fact, maybe it is the same rhythm and sounds being used, but filtered down to sound like distant memories. Overall, it is a nice track to end the EP.
In summary, Burial’s “Street Halo” is one of the biggest surprises to come out this year so far. Though no one expected the Four Tet/Burial/Thom Yorke collaboration to have come out earlier this year, certainly no one expected an EP of new Burial material either. However, no one should be disappointed with this EP. Though it is an evolution of the Burial sound, still, it is not too far removed from the style we know and love from Burial, and since it is indeed new tracks, why should anyone be disappointed? Some say that this EP is a taste of the forthcoming Burial album, and though it has not been officially confirmed that there is a new album coming out, still, “Street Halo” should be good enough to keep Burial fans or any fan of ambient, dubstep, 2-step, and just electronic music in general happy for a while. Highly recommended listening.
Album: Street Halo
Released in 2011 by Hyperdub
Available to buy at http://www.hyperdub.net/