Review Summary: Formlessness
Whenever a piece of music isn’t very good or doesn’t live up to expectations, I often see the word “experimental” thrown around. While perusing the discussion of acclaimed UK producer Burial’s newest release, I noticed “experimental” was being hastily strewn around in large enough quantities that it caught my eye. The notion that Young Death/Nightmarket
is experimental perturbed me, as it contains all of the trappings of a Burial record. The pitch shifted vocal samples, the record scratches, the metropolitan ambiance, and the sparse electronic instrumentation are all here, so what gives? What’s so different about this Burial release that some are heralding it as experimental? Is it actually the atypical divergent in Burial discography sonically, or is it just a clever guise - a cheap way of defending a substandard record when one actually has nothing nice to say about it?
If anything is out of place it’s certainly not the use of samples. The distorted voices, analog tones, and other Burial trademarks all showed up to the party. But like a sad alcoholic at a party, these sounds seem like they’re there just because they’re expected to be there, popping in and out with no real sense of cohesion or arrangement. What really sets Young Death/Nightmarket
apart in Burial’s discography is that it is largely formless. The b-side "Nightmarket" is especially guilty, as it sounds like three or four different song ideas mashed together and stretched out to reach its seven minute run-time. Most appalling are the synth tones, which are cheesy, feel out of place on a Burial record, and sound like they were ripped straight out of a knockoff Mass Effect soundtrack. "Nightmarket" also has no percussion track, which amplifies the effect of everything feeling like a random mishmash of tones and ideas. Burial’s use of mangled, disfigured, and jittery percussion is often unsurprisingly the backbone of his music, and without it, "Nightmarket" ends up sounding like cheap synth tones lost in space. "Young Death" at least has a kick drum, even if it’s buried in the mix and washed over by uninspired vaguely “dancey” music. The uncharacteristically sloppy arrangements never allow "Young Death" or "Nightmarket" to find its footing long enough to sustain the sort of atmosphere Burial is known so well for producing, which is a shame as there are a couple of bright ideas buried in the chaos.
After intense analysis and deliberation I again must ask myself “Is Young Death/Nightmarket
experimental?” I suppose, if you count taking a sledgehammer to the structure of your music and replacing it with a lame synth track as experimentation. The better question to ask would be “Does it matter whether Young Death/Nightmarket
is experimental or not?” And to that I would have to give a resounding “no.” Young Death/Nightmarket
is not experimental, it’s not an artist exploring new inspirations and emotions - it’s a hot mess, and more importantly, it’s not very good.