Review Summary: Burial should have brought an umbrella.
Getting caught in the rain is never a nice feeling. There is just something about being covered in cold water that can make even the happy go lucky go sour. Unfortunately for Burial today he has the first world problem of missing his usual bus in some unfavourable weather. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse he realizes it is the last bus of the evening. Maybe if the boss didn’t keep him so late he would’ve been able to get a warm and safe ride home. Shaking his head and uttering a tired yawn after a hard day’s work Burial clad in a used hoody paces his way along the unforgiving city streets.
Fortunately it isn’t raining just yet though, the first song ‘Distant Lights’ marks the beginning of Burial’s valiant quest to reach the porch light of his bachelor apartment. A wind howls hauntingly through the dusk air. The streets are clear nobody dares wander around these parts especially given the forecast of torrential downpour. The song is very minimalist in nature, everything is very subtle and lo-fi nothing really makes any grand appearance. There is a soulful voice humming in the background echoing densely at the forefront of the soundscape over the tinkering and clanking of the collaboration between tambourine and licks of the tom. The wind picks up on occasion offering some swooping synths that feel as if they are crashing into the atmosphere. The wind chimes begin to churn in anticipation and the song grows in density most notably the drums slowly creep their way to the front of the mix while the windy sounding electronics fade off into the distance. On occasion however the atmosphere appears to be a bit broken. Although the song is quite simple in nature the 4th wall falls when a fluttery synth drops on by climbing its way up the production ladder and fading out. This questionable line acts as a catchy hook however it really takes away from the atmosphere of the windy, grey clouded dusk. Burial walks past a store window and sees a sign that reads Kode9 Remix. He laughs a little and continues walking because he knows that song is a poor excuse for a remix. Although it has an identity of its own it takes all the negatives of the first track and emphasizes them. To top it all off it is slapped over a clapping beat accompanied by what sounds alike an 8-bit video game sound effect.
The rain now kicks in and Burial isn’t happy. ‘Pirate’ highlights this section of the journey; the crackling glitch elements return and blend in beautifully with the rain sound samples to create a very surreal atmosphere. The drums course in a lucid denseness that adds to the affect and believability of the severity of the rain. Largely distorted vocal samples fade out in the distance creating an illusion of short vision. This song perfectly paints a picture of being caught in the rain and could have easily fit on Untrue.
Burial arrives home only to be patronized by his worried family. The ferocity and tension in ‘Gutted’ escalates with a constant complex drum beat that with the help of production comes across as glitchy jumping behind and in front of the song structure dancing in panic. The crackling changes this time around from rain into fire. At the tail end of each hit and note the glitchy beats produce a flickering sound that acts a warm undertone for the song. Burial has finally made it home folks, this song is very warm and you can almost feel the heat of the fireplace alongside the tension making for a sauna of a song.
Normally I would be against track by track reviews however there is no other way to look at ‘Distant Lights’ it is an album that although consistent in direction varies so greatly throughout in experimentation and structure because it adapts to whatever situation Burial finds himself in. This album lacks the production oomph that exists in Untrue (excluding Pirate). This stiffness is noticeable due to a lack of movement around the soundscape. Mobility is instead substituted in Distant Lights with a much more straight forward approach following the linear journey of Burial. Just thank god he made it home safe.