Review Summary: Don't rush me, I'll get at you when I get at you
Those words, uttered by HBO’s The Wire’s Marlo Stanfield, and lifted from the penultimate juncture of 2011’s Street Halo
and dropped at the completion of this time traveling assortment bring with them an even more knowing wink of mirth. William Bevan, now more playing as Burial than being Burial, for all his reticence and intent on making music solely and squarely on his terms has to be aware of the patience his fan base has endured as he’s spent the last decade maneuvering and hiding from any kind of dialogue that might point to the long-fabled and much-heralded Third LP. And while enduring that wait in real time has felt like an endurance run with minimal return, Tunes 2011-2019
might, upon reflection, reveal that in the absence of any substantial long form narrative, Bevan has spent the last 9 years in a state of innovatory and advantageous state of flux.
The big issue with Bevan’s output of late hasn’t been the lack of yield, or even with the far-reaching attempts at evolution and expansion. The disparagement has always seemed to fall with the feeling that his releases have felt somewhat slight
and in desperate need for the reveal of a much bigger picture. Songs feel like they haven’t mysteriously arisen out of the ether but having rather been bisected and assembled onto a canvas not able to be bolstered by larger brush strokes. Whereas once there were suites of music that deftly weaved deep and immersive wordless narratives across loosely connected gossamer skeins of the hardcore continuum, in its place were droning threnodies of disconnected and skewed ambience. Bevan, forever the romanticized outsider, felt lost in his own mythology, reeling and colliding from one nostalgia-tinged reverie to the next. This collection seeks to tie all those threads together, to bind them all into a fitting tapestry of long-con experimentation. And, somewhat surprisingly, it works. Exceedingly well. In its attempts to re-appropriate, Tunes 2011-2019
plots a new course for a path already walked. Now no longer acting as square pegs designed for round holes, scattered jigsaw pieces now fit.
At two and a half hours long, this selection feels monolithic. And it should; Bevan has always lived and breathed his music, and this release represents the essence of an artist dealing with an insurmountable level of excessive success and campaigns to reveal his identity. Defined and unified like this, perseverance becomes an overwhelming theme here. The swirling ghosts and their inaccessible lamentations now sing with increased fervor gathered here under one umbrella, stalking moodily onward with consolidated intent. Pieces cut from the same cloth yet feeling misshapen as if designed for pretenders and unfamiliar shadows now fall into place, captured and locked into position by bookends that not just support but uplift them into something much larger and specific.
The music you’ve already heard, but what transforms this from a simple congregation of Burial’s post-Untrue
Hyperdub output (‘Rodent’ is curiously absent here, but also not overly missed), is in the artist’s quite striking re-sequencing of his years-long journey of self-discovery. Playing out in almost perfect reverse reveals new impressions and patterns that welcome conspiratorial discussions that “this was always the plan”. This isn’t on the same level as Radiohead’s infamous pairing of OK Computer
and In Rainbows
, but for the most part everything here lines up almost too well. As it should; this is still the same artist with the same dusty sequencer and the same skyline greeting him at his window. The same rose-tinted glasses for rave culture might be cracked and lopsided but they still reflect the same intent.
And here, bound and joined in cooperation and playing to a larger intention do the individual parts take on greater providence. In their servitude they attain a far more grandiose capacity. ‘Young Death’ hits with far greater impact now that it has more weight behind it, its capstone more tragic now that it feels earned rather than prematurely feeling like it’s climbed a pinnacle yet to be surveyed. And while Lana Wachowski’s speech of empowerment and acceptance of the transgendered society at the closure of ‘Come Down To Us’ feels a little undone by ‘Claustro’s sonnet to 90’s acid house with its sufficient rave stockpile of anthemic doldrums, choosing to galvanize Lana’s talk of support leading to greater levels of acceptance, or “access to other rooms previously unimaginable”, as a gateway to Bevan’s more ravenous and substantially forward material feels truly inspired, if a little on the nose.
Restructuring ‘Rough Sleeper’ and ‘Truant’ reinvigorates their somewhat divisive template; their haphazard structure feels more wholly comfortable and deliberate reappearing after the compilation’s more beatless beginnings. Their transgressions now feel deliberate and secure, continuing a conversation long held rather than separating distant discussions. In their infancy they felt like an overt attempt to shed skin, like articles missing a through line but still, stubbornly, moving forward, ever forward. Here, they’re wholly more substantial, provoked into a place of greater understanding by everything that’s come after it, now lost in time and prefacing it. Finally, for an artist who chose to symbolize himself with a bold veil of angular disparity and created an alter ego confined for eternity to a diner of broken dreams, everything has come full circle.
For those wanting Untrue
levels of output, that album will forever be at your disposal. An album designed as worship has now entered that same vault of romanticized antiquity. Tunes 2011-2019
ends with ‘NYC’, taken from the first major post-Untrue
release, Street Halo
. New York City, perhaps the last great magical city. Symbolized here by a man who already felt like a stranger living in the wrong time, now walking in a strange land. Innocence and wonder embodied by a youthful and feminine curiosity. Again though, here it feels different. This now, is the artist that we thought we knew. As an epilogue, it instills a level of newfound confidence, of acceptance. Bevan, now Burial again, feels at home with no plot to course. The darkness, already fallen, has come calling again.