Burial :: Rival Dealer (Hyperdub)

Burial’s output is becoming harder and harder to predict or track, and to so boldly eschew the expected dark, angst-ridden, minor key moodiness in favor of messages of positivity, support and compassion makes Rival Dealer one of his most defining releases to date.

Burial - Rival DealerOver the last few years it has become difficult not to associate a new Burial release with the deep chill of winter, a feeling further reinforced by the unexpected late December announcement of 2012’s Truant/Rough Sleeper. Come late December 2013 and here we were again, with what almost felt set to become a new Christmas tradition: Hyperdub’s announcement of the surprise Burial EP.

Never before has the mysterious Will Bevan’s new material been more suited to the festive season than with the provocatively titled Rival Dealer. Couple this with the festive season being a typically quiet period for most labels as they wind down for another year, and you end up with critical and public attention focused on the release like a cruelly precise and deadly laser. And there’s little doubt about it, Rival Dealer has proven to be the most divisive release of his entire career to date, and it doesn’t take long to divine the reasons.

Rival Dealer‘s title track is not one of them, however, continuing as it does the evolution of Burial’s house-style that began subtly with the release of ‘Street Halo’ but then increased exponentially with his remixes of Massive Attack’s “Four Walls” and “Paradise Circus.” The familiar Burial trademarks are all there: exaggerated, windswept vinyl crackle, monochromatic skies firing acid rain vertically down from above, sudden breaks and hard cuts/stops in the music and multiple, distinct movements within tracks.

But on “Rival Dealer” itself Burial has crushed these elements with a thunderous amen breakbeat flattened into 2D by hurricane-force wind and rain, harsh moments of howling white noise the likes of which were last heard on “Loner,” shrill buzzing from “Truant,” traumatized breathing and soulful vocal snippets that weave a brooding path through the chaos. It’s the most intense and hardest form of Burial’s particular art yet heard.

After seven and a half minutes that read like a frenzied rewinding through Burial’s own musical time stream the cacophonous jumble dissolves and we’re left with plaintive, echoing strings billowing like tattered and seared textiles in a grey squall. It’s more emotionally forthright than we’ve really heard Burial in a while, so it’s perhaps understandable if, on first listen, you’d be uncertain whether or not this was one of those pretty convincing but not altogether believable fakes, the likes of which would frequently precede a new Autechre LP.

This unnerving feeling is pushed into overdrive as we move into the most divisive track of his career: “Hiders.” It’s Burial’s shortest track since Untrue! Autotuned vocals are right upfront in the mix! There’s a sonic palette that places it squarely in Christmas Number One territory! In 1984!! Blasphemy! Have we really become so jaded that we can only associate such positively charged music as this with the kind of empty, manufactured, millionaires’-pocket-lining moments that are pushed upon us by mainstream media pimps in long, slow-motion shots of easily exploited members of the public as “their dreams come true?”

Possibly, if the reaction to the triumphant, tolling bells melody and overt soulful vocal snippets of “Hiders” are anything to go by. Or perhaps it’s the almost unbelievable inclusion of 1980’s b-movie power ballad drums that push it over the edge, a large percentage of listeners citing the as “cheesy”, corny and saccharine. It can’t help but raise a smile through, especially because Burial’s technique hasn’t altered drastically in the track, it has just been dramatically reframed.

Last and quite the opposite of least is “Come Down To Us” that, in spite of not being the title track, turns out to be the emotional centre and high point of Rival Dealer. At times it’s still hard to believe that this is really Burial you’re listening to, unless it’s Burial versus Enigma circa Le Roi Et Mort, Vive Le Roi! The piped, midnight blue haunting pads followed by a looped sitar riff, magical, golden chords and more upfront, autotuned vocal samples seemingly belonging to another artist entirely.

Seven and a half minutes in and once again Burial changes things up as mood shifts again to the almost festive. Soft, stuttering snares, delicate shakers and angelic choirs of voices and threaded with incredible pathos through a myriad of different percussive structures and a twinkling, festive melodic loop that seems designed to rile up even the most casual of feelgood music haters. Many of the samples in “Come Down To Us” support the general message of Rival Dealer, one of tolerance, acceptance and anti-bullying, with some small focus on alternative lifestyles and sexuality, most memorably in the excerpt of Lana Wachowski’s now famous speech, which quietly closes the EP almost unaccompanied.

Burial’s output is becoming harder and harder to predict or track, and to so boldly eschew the expected dark, angst-ridden, minor key moodiness in favor of messages of positivity, support and compassion makes Rival Dealer one of his most defining releases to date.

Rival Dealer is available on Hyperdub.

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.