Review Summary: Burial goes full circle
It’s hard not to view Burial’s three solo EPs stretching back to 2011 as a trilogy. Each one provides a slice of Burial’s progression from the relative simplicity of Untrue
, in a Goldilocks style progression. Street Halo
kept a focus on pop melodies but experimented with slightly longer song structures and a more absorbing atmosphere. Kindred
was even more expansive and complex, winding through progressive passages of music deeper than anything Burial had done before. Cut-outs were a major theme, with different segments of music strung together within individual tracks. On Truant
this technique has been upped another notch. Whereas on Kindred
the tracks still came across as solid pieces of music, on Truant
the tracks fragment, barely linking together the collection of often unrelated ideas within them.
It’d be easy to say that Burial has overstepped the mark this time, but Truant
sees him almost going full circle and back to his roots. Although the two blocks of sound cut into slices of twelve and fourteen minutes seem even more daunting and grandiose than Kindred
, they are mainly a collected variety of simple ideas. Light synthesised strings and crackling provide the fabric for Burial’s palette of motifs- a voice calling out “Truant”
in melisma, vocal samples singing shreds of vague lyrics begging for interpretation, growling bass-lines, flickering beats, sirens, a motif struck out of an instrument sounding suspiciously like a xylophone and a noise resembling the sound of helicopter propellers, although numbed and suffocated. Their isolation and ambiguity creates an atmosphere in itself, in counterpart to Kindred
’s thick vibe. Often the tightly coiled beats and rumbling bass-lines acting are reminiscent of Burial’s early work, stretching back to the beat driven South London Boroughs
. Although they sound more weary and aged, adding to the music’s atmosphere.
As a whole, Truant
may not be Burial’s best work to date- it’s not as catchy as Untrue
or as immersive and atmospheric as Kindred
(which is arguably where he struck the perfect balance in his sound)- but it provides a fascinating perspective on his musical progression. Truant
uses the longer song structure to showcase various scraps of musical ideas that work based on their simplicity and the basic relations they form interlocked with another idea. Yet, from the moment in “Rough Sleeper” where a burst of sirens immediately precedes a brief flurry from the beats and vocals, to the manic combination of dissonant sirens and the beat towards the end of “Truant”, to the softer and more atmospheric segments, the unpredictable nature of these sounds from one to the other manages to make the EP a deep and exciting listen which allows for multiple listens to make sense of.