Review Summary: Burial takes us on a journey through the backstreets of a strange and wonderful city. It may be a path you'll want to retread
I doubt I'm alone here, but the first thing I'm looking for when I play a new record is a pull towards it, for something to resonate with me deeply and to get that warm feeling when you just know that this is what you have been searching for, for months, maybe even years. This is precisely the reaction I had when I listened to Untrue for the first time. I didn't necessarily understand what I was hearing at first, or what world this strange yet beautiful concoction came from, but after a couple of listens I just knew that I had found a treasure, and felt privileged to join the many who had found it before me.
The intro gives you no indication whatsoever of the landscape you're about to embark upon. You're pretty much left guessing until an off-kilter drum beat kicks in to get us on our way into 'Archangel'. With it's stumbling beat and soaring synths, 'Archangel' is the perfect mood setter for what's to come. The impression I get from the track is that of being transported to a club, longing after an unobtainable subject, wanting to make an advance, but never really having the courage in your convictions.The heavily processed R&B vocal hook which runs throughout the bulk of the song is bursting with a desperate optimism that permeates the clicking beats and rumbling bass deep below. When the line "Kissing you, tell me I belong…tell me I belong" is sung, it's a standout moment. Those soaring, sweeping synths have retreated, leaving just the skittering beat, and you, in this most vulnerable of moments, desperate for acceptance, pleading for a connection with someone, anyone. And then as quickly as they left, the synths come flooding back in, taking you to a different place altogether, a place where you're comfortable to be yourself. It's a heady mix of longing, rejection and euphoria that leaves you breathless and wanting more. And more you shall have.
The way in which Burial plays with vocal samples is what really sets this album apart for me. The repeated refrain of "I can't take my eyes off you" in the brooding 'Near Dark', could come across as a throwaway comment in another producer's hands, but the way he sculpts it, altering the pitch and placement in the mix, it suddenly becomes something more sinister, like a stalker lusting after his object of affection. It's moments like this that really impress and stand Burial apart from his peers.
That feeling of not truly knowing your surroundings, not sure what lies around the next corner, pretty much sums up the vibe of the record. It's a hazy night out in a strange city. A missed taxi ride after a night of drunken shenanigans, forcing you to walk the dark alleys and backstreets to get home to your safe haven. Voices come in and out of earshot, lingering in the still night air as groups of people walk past, half muted by the bass thumps and ricocheting drum beats heard from clubs open until all hours. You get that nagging feeling that you could just wander in for one last hit of nightlife before the sun comes up, lifting the murk and shedding a new light on the city. But you're alone, so you don't. You keep focused on ambling through the city, soaking up all that occurs around you.
You're taken on a real journey with Untrue. 'Endorphin' has you sat in the window of a coffee shop (much like the cover art), watching as people pour past, their laughs and drunken arguments just about heard from within the warm confines of said establishment. A brief moment of silence then 'Etched Headplate' creeps up on you, dragging you back onto the cold streets.
'In McDonalds' is a brief interlude in which you're bathed in luscious synth lines while an angelic voice whispers sweet nothings in your ear, in an attempt to distract you from the gloomy streets that seem to engulf your very being. It's a beautiful track, and just enough refreshment before we're plunged back into reality.
'Raver' brings things to an astonishing end. The relentless, driving beat giving you that extra push to your destination. Distorted, euphoric cries are just about audible, buried below churning bass and hissing symbols. It's a final turn of the head to acknowledge the evening's events. City lights can still be seen in the distance. Songs can still be heard blaring from the clubs you were frequenting and meandering past earlier that night. And once the beat does finally relent, the ringing in your ears fills you with an eagerness to do it all again next weekend.
I can only assume that this is the feeling that Burial was trying to achieve when making Untrue. It's so densely filled with the sounds of a busy urban night you can almost taste it. Every single beat, every snare hit, every anonymous whisper floats past you and evaporates, only to reappear to haunt you again moments later, just giving you enough to breathe in and hold onto, knowing that you're just going to make that same journey again, and again.