Review Summary: Alone.Untrue
is an album that lives and dies by its explorative touch. For a record so deeply indebted to its clever uses of electronic instrumentation and sampling, Burial’s second studio effort sounds anything but artificial when you let it seep from speaker into ear. There’s an immediate sense of being transported into a different setting, a different congregation of people, a different time of day. And I think most of this is attributed to the fact that Burial revels in the ability to let the music just sink in
. These songs take plenty of time to fester in the eardrums, making sure to allow the full scope of the atmosphere settle in once every last musical ornament has been brought to the mix. Some moments, such as the small interlude “In McDonalds,” just hang in a deeply unsettling, uneasy state while you’re wondering if any “beat” might enter the fray. However, even the tracks that do
rely much more on their beats are still equipped with the ability to constantly put the listener in a place of unease, such as the mesmerizing synth/vocal attack of “Ghost Hardware” or the looming-and-lumbering bass wobbles of “Etched Headplate.”
has often been compared to dark cityscapes, and it’s for a damn good reason. Something about it sounds so utterly intertwined with cold industrialism, dilapidated skyscrapers, and lonely alleyways, as well as the lonely faceless people who inhabit such dreary locales. And this is all quite immediate when you start up the album; the untitled intro is a formless, shapeless mass of dark keyboards that’s eventually complimented by the gloomy soundscapes and heavily manipulated vocal chops of “Archangel.” Somehow, Burial is able to find that powerful sweet spot between the intangible and the tangible, the ethereal and the all-to-real. The synthesizers and pulsing basslines make for something that sounds like an out-of-body experience, but you’re always being flung back down to earth by the weight of each song’s grim, morbid sense of reality. “Etched Headplate” might just be the best example of this; the beautifully wispy, faint vocal utterances and cascading synths on top always seem to contradict the sense of dread and fear emanating from the deep bass, but they mesh in a way that they’re one and the same. It’s as if you’re staring up at a brilliantly lit sky from a bottomless chasm, and the feeling is simply unmatchable.
As others have previously stated, I too get the feeling that this entire record was written with the underground in mind. This has even been confirmed by Burial himself, and it goes a long way in describing why he imbued his music with such a sheltered and murky vibe. Along with the theme of city life that’s so often associated with this record, the other common themes are introspection and reflection. It’s astounding that electronic music can sound so human, but the inner turmoil and hopelessness presented by songs like “In McDonalds” and the densely packed title track prove that Burial can achieve the same results as any highly personal singer-songwriter could. And by cleverly maintaining his anonymity (at least for a long while), he could strike a more universal chord with his listeners and prove that he didn’t need to cling to an identity to sell his craft. Because, no matter how much you can hear his own touch within the music, the effect and the atmosphere are what ultimately matter the most. This isn’t just music we can listen to, it’s music we can dwell
in. It’s a city. It’s a complicated network of subway stations. It’s a lonely building that hasn’t seen human life in ages. It’s a crowded sidewalk awash with strangers you may never see again. Or maybe the music is just reshaping how we perceive the lifelong struggle of being alone and detached. That
sounds even more real.