Burial is back with his latest release “Rough Sleeper/Truant EP”, following up the highly acclaimed “Kindred” of last year. Kindred marked a huge change in Burial’s sound since his prior release, “Street Halo” released earlier in 2011. Over the last couple of years, a few critics have faulted Burial’s music on the basis that a lot of work shares the same similar formula and style. His unique dark flavour of sound is quite distinctive and after a short listen to most of his tunes you would probably be able to tell who it is. Not that this is a bad thing, as Burial has still yet to disappoint. 2011’s Street Halo has the same melancholic sound that everyone enjoyed – though many speculated his sound could not be developed much further. They were proven wrong.
For me, “Kindred” was the best release of last year. It’s progressive format and focus on aural textures brought it a step away from House/Techno/2-Step Garage and closer to what i would consider sound art. Each of its three tracks were divided into movements, and the transition between each usually involved an abrupt stop followed by the warm crackle of vinyl distortion – most likely to imagine the process of an old record being replaced by another. The result was a stunning and immersive experience throughout, from the awkward, clunky melodies of the opening tune, also called Kindred, to the gorgeous end section of Ashtray Wasp that elegantly drew the EP to a close.
And so we have now the “Rough Sleeper/Truant EP” , the follow up to Kindred that seemed to come without much warning, yet not soon enough. A rare treat to have two proper Burial releases within a year! The format follows that of Kindred and consequently it’s hard not to compare the two, although after listening to both it’s clear that one is definitely not just a continuation of the other.
Let me first just say that it took me a lot longer to appreciate “Rough Sleeper/Truant” than its predecessor. Overall the sound is much darker and (in my opinion) less accessible. To those that don’t like it on the first listen and consider dismissing it, please note that there is a lot more going on in this EP than what first meets the ear. There is a massive focus on the textures of each sound and how they react with each other, something which was not apparent to me after the first listen.
The opening track, “Truant”, is certainly the overall darker side to the release. Although the funky tribal rhythms and lumbering bass keep the track on its toes, the first half of the track is still somehow quite delicate and calming. Its on odd sort of effect for something that initially sounds really thumping! The latter half is some of the most banging music Burial has yet had to offer. The warm syncopated beats and crunchy hand-claps give the tune a pace that would be welcome on any dancefloor. The main melodies in one of the last sections could have been taken straight out of a 90’s jungle classic, but once again is twisted into something much, much darker. That being said there is certainly a lot of optimism here that is rarely found in Burial’s tracks. If i had to make one criticism I would have to say i found the last 2 minutes or so of the track fairly unengaging in comparison to what came before.
“Rough Sleeper” on the other hand is a soft and beautiful track that boasts brilliantly cut vocals and ambient melodies. Once again Burial does a great job at picking nostalgic sounds of the 90’s to paint a much darker picture of the genre. Many of the midrange melodies that occur throughout the track strangely remind me of Boards of Canada, particularly their album “In a Beautiful Place Out In The Country”, but that’s just me. Either way, the production standard is once again top-notch and although some sections may seem almost messy and on top of each other at times, it’s clear that each part was purposefully done with great care and is a great aural experience.
This is the sound Burial intended and it provides an interesting challenge to the listener. The section midway through the track with the ringing bells is particularly well crafted and the crunching in the background really intertwines perfectly into them, creating an overwhelmingly atmospheric and emotive experience. He has perfected that distinctive distorted vinyl sound of his too which – since Kindred – seems to have developed into the sound of a mountain crumbling into the sea being recorded on a dodgy tape recorder. Or something.
All in all this release is another positive evolution from Burial’s usual sound and is both genuinely unique and refreshing to hear. The record is a fine example of a producer’s creativity and skill maturing to the point where they have refined there signature sound and brought it to a totally new level. Although it is only two tracks, it still has 26 minutes of playing time that will take listeners on an enjoyable journey – regardless if they are fans of Burial’s previous releases or not.
Burial’s “Truant/Rough Sleeper” EP can be bought on digital release and vinyl from Hyperdub Records, here