Review Summary: Subtemple is far below, in the dirt, muffled and slowly humming the end.
There's always the point where an artist no longer amuses himself or his own act to a demand others give, Burial being expected to remain closely in a very essential proof of said phenomenon. With Subtemple we're no longer enjoying Burial as an artist known for loose percussion slightly itched by milliseconds to correspond to something more organic that a computer can tempo out of, as an artist known for hauntology in vinyl scratches, whispers, bullet casings falling to the floor, lighters, exhales and dark static, as an artist known for nearly heaven-like melodies that
come as a result of heavy distortion and modification from overhumanly picked samples.
Subtemple is dark ambient with Burial, the very event could be compared to Boards of Canada removing all percussion and extending the transition pieces to 5-minute spectacles. However, with Burial, the masterful detail to sound has never been of second importance, we're not only witnessing the "future garage grandfather" take steps in the void with hopes of reaching away from a form presumably too cheerful for future projects. This may be Bevan taking the word "Burial" into the literal extent by not only diminishing everything it represented in the electronic music as an act too honest and raw
towards love and turned it to a venture into Death.
Subtemple as a 7,5-minute piece is as engaging as you can expect dark ambient to be, perhaps the sounds of static, breaths and reeling may give forth a sense of percussion kicking in, but we instead fall down. "Took you so long!", someone is in anger and the journey into nothingness continues, as we further dive down things distort into grand halls devoid of any detail with only humid air giving a sense of infinity as a thick fog. The descending duo are humble in front of the Subtemple, below are splashes, something is in the water. Breathing masks on, this is an alien place. Something may lunge from around the corner or then this temple is devoid of movement. "All there is left is the procedure." The other part of the excavation team says and the duo begin the task they were sent down for. What could this be? Why is there more life and hallways, sounds of office lighting, steel fences at the end? Where is this corporate hell and who is the guard?
Beachfires is what once was the inhabitants of the Subtemple perhaps partaking in a beach burial. Low rumbles of static give away the very sense of fire that may be hidden from the ear. It is only those incredibly finity-predicting synths that portray serenity, with a wind bell sometimes giving in to satisfy the atmosphere further. We are in the middle of something not only holy but something so honestly human it hurts. And hurting hearts is what Burial is to me, with depictions of failing love, finding kinship from one another and hiding yourself for being different. Beachfires is not only vocal-free but importantly so, as only the instrumental aspect of this music alone might give the feeling of a silent moment in front of the dead. At the end the word "Burial" is ringing in the ears, something has been sent to the next life. The ritual, the exchange, is at an end.
This may or may not be Burial enough to those who listen to Archangel on repeat from YouTube while doing homework, but to those who deeply care for an artist bringing forth atmospheres and music, be it future garage or not, will likely find this EP an exchange worth the time but also one that stands in Burial's catalogue as one of the darkest he has shed light onto. An EP completely percussion free for a purpose is slowly taking Burial towards a style unchained from percussion but free to live in the moment, which we may still come to love. If the temple is in the Jungle, the Subtemple is beneath the ground, muffled and unmoving, lifeless.
'Young Death' EP had this to suffer, not only did it not force a central theme for the music but also introduced completely nonfunctional solutions to portray Burial in the context which was young death. This EP does it without questions,
finality, tribalism, all the human stuff can be traced back to Bevan's aspiration for Jungle music, which eventually set forth the genre he is known for. So while the dark ambient solution may benefit the artist to reshape his act, the listener will either suffer from being bored or missing the dubstep. It is an awful truth, from which Burial must carve out a long way before Subtemple feels comfortable in his catalogue, but before that, it remains as a central piece to his future aesthetic and an outstanding piece of dark ambient which while as a newcomer to the genre still performs superbly to the rival dealers of the experience. All that remains to be addressed however, is that it isn't what Burial is known for, take it or leave it. It is the drums that pace forth his works and lacking this element reduces the overall experience to many, many people. Either he returns to this form with lesser quality or buries himself deeper into dirt with ambience is all at this point, but Subtemple still holds as a sufficiently engaging experience.