No matter how you feel about his achievements of late, the release of new Burial material is always a bit of an event. Just like last year, he's delivering an early Christmas present to the world in the form of this new three-track EP. The enigmatic producer seems to be fed up with the structure and limitations of full-length albums, because all his recent work is contained in several concise EP-packages; a format which enabled the man's imagination to roam more freely than ever. And with success, because last year's Kindred
was without a doubt a milestone for Bevan, which really earned its place right next to the already legendary Untrue
. The follow-up, Truant / Rough Sleeper
, seemed like a bit of a hiccup along the way in comparison, and sadly, the new Rival Dealer
suffers from the same problems.
What problems? Well for starters, the large sense of deja-vu that's permeating these three tracks. On a first glance, however, it does seem that Burial is abandoning the straitjacket of dubstep and UK garage, and is exploring new artistic territory. He's toying with (to him) exotic genres like breakbeat rave and pumping techno on 'Rival Dealer', or flirting with modern-day R&B and sluggish hip-hop on 'Hiders' and 'Come Down To Us'. Innovation? Hardly, because he's not actually putting his own take on those styles but rather employs fairly standard rhythmic templates and then sprays his characteristic vinyl crackle and melodramatic vocal samples over them. Those are tricks he's used a bit too many times in the past and as a result, the three tracks here are lacking in profound emotional impact.
It's not helping either that - just like on Truant / Rough Sleeper
- he's bluntly patching his dozen different ideas together, instead of developing them individually into full songs. It's a shame, because some sequences here are truly stunning, like the gorgeous finale of 'Come Down To Us' or the gritty techno-centerpiece in the title track. However, the abrupt stop/start approach and the sappy monologues in between of the actual music almost completely sabotage the mood Burial is creating with these highlights. From his last couple releases, it's clear that he doesn't really concern himself anymore with simple concepts like structure nowadays, but that he's fine with just enjoying to wildly experiment with his clunky production software. Which is fine, really, but it's hard to argue that Bevan is still at his best when he's restraining himself a bit and working towards a clear and tangible goal. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan, and I'm looking forward to the undoubtly many great things he'll come up with in the future. But for the moment, Rival Dealer
feels like a rather non-essential and even slightly disappointing placeholder for what's about to come.