Review Summary: This is not the soundtrack to overlooking the city from a hilltop, hearing the rare hum of a car or train in the distance, with someone who is special to you.
Choosing this album to be my first review was an easy decision. However, this was not an album I immediately understood, or even liked. I didn’t ‘get’ the mood that Burial has achieved with Untrue, and I couldn’t see how other people had connected with it on such a personal level. I had little to no knowledge of the genre itself, and even less knowledge of the fact that Burial is an outsider of the dubstep genre, standing alone on the outskirts, creating music to define the comedown of a night or a weekend out, instead of the euphoria that comes with the nightlife. My first few listens to this album were spent trying to break each song down into single pieces of music that I could separate and identify individually, but I soon noticed that this is not the correct way to approach Untrue. It is an album that is intended to wash over you, to draw you in with fractured samples, beats that drift in and out of each and every song almost unnoticed, and the occasional glimpses of hope that are purposefully placed throughout the album. Sooner or later, it will become apparent why it garners the huge amount of praise that it receives. You will begin to connect with the album as a whole, rather than single songs or sections.
Opening with a brief prelude, you are immediately subjected to the beauty of the album’s first highlight, ‘Archangel’. Fidgety drum hits (created by Will Bevan’s refusal to quantize his drum loops, instead opting to drag each individual beat into place) create a pulse, a backbone for the longing serenades of “Holding you – couldn’t be alone/Loving you – couldn’t be alone” to croon over, and the Metal Gear Solid-sampled synths to build upon. ‘Archangel’ is a showcase of the feelings that Untrue will evoke within you, it will become the words you were never able to say, as if Burial was expressing thoughts of your own that you had never been able to express yourself.
The eerie haze of ‘Ghost Hardware’ again utilises highly doctored vocals singing about love, and shows the ebb and flow of the album, as the pace slows and quickens, as if trying to find the natural rhythm of loneliness. It is a 5 minute long masterpiece, which feels far shorter, a testament to how Will Bevan’s music can subdue your senses and transport you to a place in which you feel as if you are at peace with the cold, grey world outside. Again, on ‘Etched Headplate’, offbeat and glitchy percussion is matched against dreamlike moans, fading in and out of the background, creating a slightly edgy mood, yet a familiar one, a comforting presence, ensuring you know that you are not the only one who feels as if you are alone.
The centrepiece of the album, the breathtaking ‘In McDonald’s’, has a distinct lack of any truly audible beats, yet expands and breathes on it’s own, a true indicator of Burial’s masterful use of ambience. The only words spoken (“Once upon a time it was you that I adored/You look different”) are spaced out along the 2 minute track, which seems overly short lived, however it’s length only adds to the effect, as once the layers begin to build and the track begins to swell, it is cut short and you are left wanting more, giving off the vibe that Burial knows exactly how you feel as you listen, and that he knows precisely what he’s doing. ‘Raver’, the album’s closing track, is the closest that you will get to a true beat that you could dance to, yet it is slowed right down to a crawl, and forces the listener to absorb every nuance and hidden noise of the song, of which there are plenty, as the hazy vocals mix and mingle with woodblock percussion.
Do not approach Untrue expecting to find an instant love for the music that Will Bevan has created. This is not the soundtrack to overlooking the city from a hilltop, hearing the rare hum of a car or train in the distance, with someone who is special to you. This is the soundtrack to being in the middle of the city, by yourself, on a cold night, blending into the scenery, experiencing the loneliness and seeing the beauty of street lights and parked cars from a first hand perspective. Yes, this album may seem cold and unemotional on the surface, but eventually, you will become immersed in it. You will feel the pulse of the album, and every crackle or warped sample will become familiar. It will become part of you, the part that craves time alone, simply observing the world as it moves past.