Review Summary: Ghost stories from the underground
“The first [album] got slightly out of where it belonged, and I found it a bit difficult to just block things out and make tunes in a low key way again, and it took time to just get back to doing that, and liking it, and doing it fast, and not trying to be a perfectionist. Just trying to dream up tunes again without worrying what people were going to think."
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that aside from Burial’s obvious talents, both Untrue and his self-titled debut have succeeded on so many levels by their almost anti-hype qualities, as much as anything else. Burial (later revealed as Will Bevan) crafted himself an almost “man behind the curtain” like quality, a mythical persona mysterious and without a face or a biography to pin his music onto. In fact, aside from the music itself, all we were ever treated to was a kind of romantic approach to his craft, a humble work ethos recounted through varying second hand accounts that paint our recluse huddling on rooftops with smoke filled skies as his canopy, composing beats with his “rubbish, dying computer”. His self imposed anonymity helped to play a huge part in how we received the music as well; his jagged and distorted vocal hooks playing out like musings fresh from street corners infused the music with an obvious human like quality, a stark contrast to the barren and alien like landscape of his haunted beats. It almost seemed that Bevan was here to speak for the people, without having a word to say for himself. A kind of cataloger for the loved and lost, for the homeless caught halfway between genuine reflection and fantasy, Burial has given them their moment to leave their recollection of the city in his music.
But it's not just Will's new found love of vocal hooks that gives Untrue its most human quality, its the music itself that fleshes out the most emotion and attachment. While evoking the memories of old by dressing up the skeleton of rave in cloaks of fuzz and dusting off the cobwebs of garage, Bevan’s DIY approach to dubstep allows even the last lonely listener wrapped up in headphones and blankets peering out into a city flirting with daybreak to feel a part of Burial’s bigger picture. Pushing that dying and supposedly archaic computer to its limits (Burial has claimed numerous times that all of his works have been put together with the digital audio editing program Soundforge), he has managed to craft a gritty, and at times glitchy, take on the dilapidated and run down world he moves in. Little glitches and slight hesitations mark his beats at almost every turn (the result of no sequencers), resulting in an almost out of control feeling, like a pendulum out of axis and swinging to it’s ever delaying time. It creates an almost stop start atmosphere, and when everything finally re-aligns you almost get the impression that Bevan doesn’t know what to do with the remaining time in the measure. Its off-kilter and tends to draw out an almost warranted sense of paranoia, but its really just the work of a man working to is own beat, making tracks in a tiny room with the tv on, for no one but himself, and for no other reason than for the joy of making music. Call it the by-product of riding one too many subways, from seeing the city shrouded in dark more times than not, creating whole worlds out of shadows, and from envisioning a story on the lips of every passer by. While (at the time of this album’s release) his face remains just out of reach, hiding tantalizingly behind the curtain, his music paints an image just as clear of what this midnight traveler must look like.
“This one is a bit more buzzin’, glowy. It’s a bit more uplifting. It doesn’t hang around. It’s a bit more up”
Behind the layers of bass, and the crackle of percussion lies a heart just finding its voice. Even though the vocals sound like they were recorded from a distance, Burial molds and shapes them into just another piece of the puzzle, neither taking center stage or getting lost in the maelstrom of reverb, but accentuating Bevan’s surging swells in strings, placeholders for the many twists and turns. And for all the quickness that this album plays out in, by the time ‘Raver’ plays out its drug addled conclusion, faces and stories are applied to all the anonymous characters, just as much as their ring leader. All of them old chums, lives lived and still more to lead, their reflections caught forever in shards of haze and 2-step throwbacks. Untrue doesn’t seek to come across all underground, despite its emotional appeal and r&b leanings polished and ready for the masses it is exactly what it is, gutter level music risen up to blanket a city no longer looked on as home. Its that last shaky light in a darkened hallway, morphing the familiar into disturbing and menacing shadows. It’s the rebel with his head down scuffling down the sidewalks and alleys, surfing between the concrete and steel filing cabinets of high rise buildings in the moons glow, wondering to himself if he just might be the last one left alive, and alone.
“Sometimes you just want music to stay where it is from. I love drum & bass, jungle, hardcore, garage, dubstep, and always will till I die, and I don’t want the music I love to be a global samplepack music. I like underground tunes that are true and mongrel and you see people trying to break that down, alter its nature. Underground music should have its back turned, it needs to be gone, untrackable, unreadable, just a distance.”
No smoke, no mirrors – Burial’s Untrue is nothing more than the ghost stories of an underground content to stay just the way it is.