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Burial
Rival Dealer Sophie Coletta , December 16th, 2013 11:12

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It's fascinating how certain pieces of music fold themselves around your day-to-day existence, rendering you sensitive to things you might otherwise miss while lost within a cloud of mundane thoughts. Burial makes music for journeys: for gritty, ear-numbing strolls across frosty inner cities, for foggy morning walks across moors with hands thrust deep into anorak pockets, for gazing at your reflection in blackened windows on that by-now-stereotypical last bus home. With new EP Rival Dealer clocking in at just under 28 minutes, it slips perfectly into the evening walk from my house to work.

The relentless evolution of Rival Dealer's sound patterns keeps you constantly on your toes; the opening rumbles of thunder and crackly gravel squelches on the title track are frequently indistinguishable from the landscape surrounding you, making it tough at times to tell music from reality. The first two thirds of the track are probably the closest Will Bevan's ever been to following an out-and-out dance trajectory, featuring an addictive drum break that leaps out surprisingly from behind a pop vocal hook, wrapping itself within a silky coating and pummelling onwards, past the end of my street and onto the long stretch of road that leads to the main street ahead.

It teeters on the edge of chaos, all grit and tarmac and asphalt, until it slips off the kerb between familiar androgynous vocal samples, beginning again heavier and darker after each and every pause. The snippets of voice too become increasingly vehement, beginning as barely coherent mutters of "this is who I am", and soon escalating to Lord Finesse snarling "you know my motherfucking style" within mere minutes. The defiance seeps from every edge, and then just as you've settled into a quickened pace, glaring at anything and anyone that comes your way, it suddenly, mid-zebra crossing, all gets a little Kate Winslet dangling off the Titanic. Around the nine minute mark, the track opens out into an ocean of glowing ambience, and while much of Bevan's work rotates around a persistent feeling of concrete and earth, here you're suddenly not stepping over crisp packets and tripping on uneven paving slabs, but floating high above your own body, viewing it all from beyond. It's a reminder that underneath the heavy tangibility of Burial that's very much rooted in physical, urban spaces, there's also very much an uncanny, disembodied element to his work.

'Hiders' has quickly emerged as the EP's most divisive track so far, what with its bleeding chords positioned over tape crackle and patters of rain, broken only by carefully selected saccharine lyrics. Indeed, it hinges on absurdity when the Phil Collins power ballad drums arrive, taking the whole thing miles away from the gale force of 'Rival Dealer'. Yet at the same time it's hardly surprising considering the unabashed emotional openness that he's previously flirted with on tracks like 'Near Dark', 'NYC' and 'Unite'. The blatant tongue in cheek cheesiness of it all will, and indeed already has, put many people off. But placed in the current scenery - breath misting in the air, splatters of Christmas lights draped over semi-detached suburban houses - there's an undeniable element of romance to it. A teenage couple walk past to echoes of "you are the sunrise", hands clutched together, cheeks pink from the cold. It's probably the most radiant Burial has ever sounded.

Of course it's only transitory, and by the time I'm passing my old primary school, bolted to keep the playground furniture in and the undesirable extra curricular activities out, we're back below the surface and into the ominous opening of 'Come Down To Us', where the 1980s drums have boiled down to a dusting of lazy snares and sultry, atmospheric pop melodies. The EP is at its most skeletal here, the same threads of dialogue from earlier repeating themselves, even the familiar "there's something out there" line that first appeared on 2012's 'Loner' reemerging amongst the gun reloads and lighter clicks.

Beyond the spray can rattles, vinyl crackles, and Gchat alerts, these samples of 'be yourself' defiance and unashamed sexuality are a little more weighted, a little more politicised, perhaps, than what we've heard from him before. Bevan closes the track with an extended sample of a Lana Wachowski speech, given after she received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award last year. In full, the 31-minute speech is a funny and incredibly moving tale of an individual's coming out struggle ("After school I go to a nearby Burger King and write a suicide note. It ends up being over four pages. I'm a little talkative"). Here, out of context, it still contains that specificity, but also becomes more widely applicable; remove the perspective of being transgendered, and these feelings of isolation and self-contempt could potentially apply to anyone.

It's an interesting focal point for Bevan, and as I reach my destination at the summit of the steep hill I've spent the dying moments of 'Come Down To Us' climbing, it occurs that the connection between Wachowski and Bevan could be interpreted pretty simply. Both are artists that struggle with the tension between craving anonymity and media silence, and yet wanting to provide inspiration and a platform of support to those on the fringes of society. Bevan has always been concerned with creating urban ballads for the disenfranchised from behind a veil; not always this openly, but often hinted at through titles ('Loner', 'Rough Sleeper', 'Truant', 'Homeless') and alluded to in early interviews. The uneven narrative of Rival Dealer itself mimics the tumult of teenhood, and leaves you reeling with those years of hiding in the toilets at lunchtime, spending nights speeding in cars and drinking plastic bottles of cider in the park, angry at everything and everyone. It's at this point that these compositions come to mean something a little more potent than an over-sentimentalised stroll across an overcast canvas of society. Rather, they function as compassionate anthems that rally against the wrought iron tempestuousness of youth.

aaron.
Dec 16, 2013 5:18pm

Not even a patch of amateur psychogeography or a phenomenological discursive study can make this auto-hyped dreck entertaining. Avoid.

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Paul
Dec 16, 2013 5:54pm

^^ Poundland Derrida?

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Luke
Dec 16, 2013 6:19pm

Why would you recommend that people avoid this EP? (or any music for that matter) It's only 28 minutes long and can be listened to for free. Give your opinion and let others form their own.

I can't say I've been overly impressed with anything Burial has released before, but I've liked his musical progression over the years, and this continues that, and has produced something that is unabashedly beautiful.

The title track is good but Hiders and Come Down To Us are the key tracks. They aren't trying to be gritty or dark for the sake of it. They are blatant expressions of happiness, hope, joy and sentimentality. More than that they don't take themselves too seriously. That flute sound at the end of RIval Dealer, those drums in Hiders and those chords halfway through Come Down To Us show Burial isn't as humourless as previous releases might betray. It's these fun elements that stave off any po-faced pretensions. Like the reviewer mentions, it is romantic, and it doesn't matter whether its the kind found in a formulaic rom-com or in a highbrow novel, as long as it moves you, does it matter?

I'd say even if you haven't liked Burial's previous output, give this a try. It's definitely worth spending half an hour of your life to find out if you like it or not.

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aaron.
Dec 16, 2013 8:15pm

In reply to Luke:

I'd say to avoid because I really think it is grievously bad enough to put a black mark on his previous material. It's the 'Lionel Asbo' of the Amis canon. No amount of pithy political commentary or 1,500 word theory-fests over his use of Cliff Richard drums is going to redeem it, for me. Of course, as everything is appended by my name, this is my personal, individual opinion. Which may be more than a little unimportant in the larger scheme of things. But I own all the other Burial records, I consider myself a paid-in fanclub member, and this latest EP is gash. And I'm not saying that as someone with a hasty judgment or a narrow musical gestalt. I've listened to the Rashad Becker about 1.3 times and everything.

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aaron.
Dec 16, 2013 8:17pm

In reply to Luke:

Also I utterly refuse to enjoy anything whatsoever on a level of ironic appreciation or 'kitsch enjoyment'. If it sounds bad, I'm not going to partake in some collective, communal patronisation of cheesiness. It just sounds bad.

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Luke
Dec 16, 2013 8:32pm

In reply to aaron.:

I own no Burial records and don't like Rashad Becker at all. I still like this release.

I'm not hearing any Cliff Richard drums though. There are plenty of 80's pop artists who used that drum sound but Cliff Richard doesn't immediately spring to mind. This leads me to believe you are not much of a fan of the 80's/90's pop/dance-pop music Burial references here. Listen to some Laura Branigan and early Whitney Houston then try Rival Dealer again. Or don't.

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aaron.
Dec 16, 2013 8:53pm

In reply to Luke:

Yes, you are exactly right, I precisely don't understand the reference/citation/quotation/allusion/headnod towards 80's drumming in the middle section of 'Hidden'. It confounds me. I can't tie it to anything else he has done or see any rhyme or reason in it. I don't understand what the sampling has to do with the rest of the EP, let alone some tendentious and platitudinal guff about 'bullying'. To me it sounds misjudged, and out of place. I actually quite like the rest of the EP, even if the remainder of the B-side is a little mawkish and sentimental (it would be foolish to sleight Burial for reaching too hard for the heartstrings). But that middle-part of 'Hidden', the 'eruption' of sorts (as emetic as that eruption is) is pure shudder to me. It's simply not conscionable. I don't know how much naff late 80's pop-music I'd have to listen to because the nudge in the ribs stopped being uncomfortable and started being encouraging, but methinks it's too much, too much.

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aaron,
Dec 16, 2013 8:54pm

In reply to aaron.:

"because" = until. I really have no idea what my autocorrect is doing

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Luke
Dec 16, 2013 9:13pm

In reply to aaron.:

Different strokes. To me that drum section drives the track forward and adds all the the impetus to it. It could even go on a bit longer for my tastes but it wouldn't be keeping with Burial's employed style.

The anti-bullying message is (to me) extrinsic to the music so I'm not even taking it into consideration. The artist can attach whatever commentary he wants to his art, but I think what the listener experiences is more important.

And I don't think he is trying to be cheesy. I think it's more a play on nostalgia (which can often be seen as cheesy in itself by some). Similar to grime producers using synth tones resembling 8-bit games/early MGM presets or D'n'B producers endlessly recycling classic breaks. Basically, it's just opening up his sound palette. I do think in the future he could integrate these elements more seamlessly but maybe the point was that they were obvious. All too often subtlety is seen as more tasteful than bombast or blatancy, but I find too much of either can (stress on can) become boring or annoying, respectfully. Here there is a nice balance.

Finally, why say 'naff' late 80's pop music? What makes it naff? That it's from the 80's, that it's pop music or that you don't like it?

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Dec 17, 2013 8:57am

In reply to Luke:

I'm not a Burial fan but I probably like this more than anything else he's done - much more light and shade, I found everything he's done before a little one-note. The drums are the same sort of drums all sorts of acts have thrown around the last 10 years with much more abandon - The Knife go overboard with them all the time. I always like it when the cheesy 80s break comes in, feels like an act isn't taking itself too seriously.

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Dec 17, 2013 6:58pm

Spot the Hendrix sample

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craig
Dec 18, 2013 11:08am

this is breathtaking music.
Burial's music is Stunning & beautiful,
I hope there is more to come.
Simply wonderful.
(don't criticize something because its a bit different
& does not fit a stereo-type genre, its called evolution!)

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mms
Dec 18, 2013 11:12am

it's happy and hopeful, and i don't think its tongue in cheek, its as sincere as anything hes done.

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Bhavesh
Dec 18, 2013 11:48am

I listen to music without prejudice, be it so any genre. If it gets my attention, i listen to it with a complete unbiased ear !. That being said, this is for the first time i happen to come across this band 'Burial' and their song 'Hiders' just made me stop and pay attention. Those 4.45 mins were absolutely stunning with all those distorted sounds of electronica and voices and the beat that kicked in for a minute or so was just fabulous. I'm now very interested to explore more music from this band, past and new. My only complain about 'Hiders' is that it's too short !. I wish they could have an extended version of it, because it's just that good. It holds you ,uplifts you and leaves you inspired.

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Dec 19, 2013 5:55am

In reply to aaron.:

The way she felt on her way home from work is valid and can't be so easily diminshed by your need to impress us with the word psychogeography. Before there was the term there were thoughts feelings and imaginings in response to art, which is normal and a perfectly good jumping off point for a review of Burial.

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Dec 19, 2013 5:57am

In reply to Paul:

This comment is not as clever as it thinks.

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Robby
Dec 19, 2013 6:31am

In reply to aaron.:

What some folks seem to find distasteful about the latter two tracks on this EPs is the same stuff he's been doing in whispers since the tunes on the self-titled and Untrue..."Forgive," "Endorphin," and "Etched Headplate" all point, though without as much force, to, I think, the sounds of "Hiders" and "Come Down to Us." The other EPs, Christ, they all have some of this sound on one track or another. That kind of light has been what he's after so much of the time. To quote Bevan himself: "...when it’s dark, it’s totally dark, there’s none of this ambient light London thing. We used to have to walk back and hold hands and use a lighter. See the light, see where you were and then you’d walk on, and the image of where you’ve just were would still be on your retina. You couldn’t see anything, but you’d see stars. Loads of the drums on the new album are just a lighter. I love lighters and Swan Vesta matches, the drums on every tune are the same, this little noise." Maybe the "little noise" is just brought a bit more to the fore here.

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craig
Dec 19, 2013 8:00am

On Mary Anne Hobbs most recent show, the DJ/presenter received a text message supposedly from Burial, real name William Bevan, which she shared with her listeners.
The message read:
"I put my heart into the new EP, I hope someone likes it. I 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. So it's like an angel's spell to protect them against the unkind people, the dark times, and the self-doubts."

Quote;it's happy and hopeful, and i don't think its tongue in cheek, its as sincere as anything hes done.
Nuff said!!!!!!!
Enjoy it.

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Fadizzle
Dec 19, 2013 4:16pm

In reply to Bhavesh:

Not a band! It seems this is a one man's show but to be honest no one knows for sure yet. I felt the same way the first time I heard Archangel. I've abused it to the point it doesn't really give me chills anymore. This latest EP though, it gives me the same feelings I had when listening to his album, Untrue, particularly the last two tracks, Hiders and Come Down To Us.

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aaron.
Dec 19, 2013 5:28pm

In reply to :

Don't accuse me of labouring a Burial review with a psychogeographical conceit - it wasn't me who designed the conceit. Writing a review based around a phenomenological account or physical trip is textbook-psychogeography: it's review writing for people who've read Sebald's 'Rings of Saturn'... and liked it. And I think it's a really well written review. If you have a problem with psychogeography as a term, don't berate me for its existence, or pointing out that this review was, in some small way, an exercise or emulation of it.

And if you think anyone is trying to be impressive by using the term, I frankly feel fucking sorry for you. Read a book.

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Dec 24, 2013 8:37am

In reply to aaron.:

Hey, maybe I was a bit harsh, but I really don't see the need to over intellectualise the review by describing it as psychogeography, as I said that is just a more modern term for what people have been doing for century upon century.

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Dec 24, 2013 8:39am

In reply to aaron.:

PS I'm entitiled to accuse you as I see fit, diminishing the review is the way you came across to me.

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Jon S
Jan 13, 2014 9:29pm

In reply to :

Aaron if your allowed to accuse as you see fit then we are allowed to accuse you as we see fit also, your review comes across as pretentious. I do read books myself and do not feel the need to write pretentious reviews with words such as 'psychogeography'. You think your more intellectual then you probably are. And for anyone who wants to judge Burials music obviously has no feelings what so ever. Every single one of his tracks leaves me speechless. Awe inspiring. Burial said he hopes someone likes this EP and quite frankly I love it I've heard nothing like his music before he's incredible. I wish I had his music to take me away when I was in school, it would have got me through the tough times. Rather then knock his music because you don't like it, maybe step back and appreciate the fact that this music is probably getting some kids through some tough times, it defiantly would have got me through some very tough times, and listening to his new EP makes me think about all the people I've lost over the years. I thank Burial for making me rediscover all those feelings, I've never had anything make me feel such strong emotions. All I can say is thank you, sublime music. Please don't ever give up music Burial, keep doing what your doing please. I need your music, and I'm sure there are other people that do as we'll.

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Funlips
Jan 14, 2014 9:42pm

In reply to :

You can keep typing psychogeography, but that doesn't mean you understand what it entails. And a quick saunter on the Wikipedia page explaining it doesn't count.

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