Burial: SubTemple / Beach Fires

Year after year, the only producer who can get away with this...maybe...

- Burial's new release SubTemple begins with moody narrative atmosphere:

...a character shuffles down a hall, puts key to lock, opens a door...

...a clock ticks, water rushes through a pipe...

...a snatch of reggae vocal lilts: "took you so long" perhaps in reference to Burial's habit of long periods between releases...

...rattles of chains, vinyl crackles...a plaintive ascending sequence that could be an out of tune thumb-piano...

...more ratcheting.. a safe being unlocked? a pistol's hammer being cocked?

...a scrap of birdsong...a valve releasing pressure...

...and then the opening cut of this two track EP is over, with nothing overtly rhythmical or melodic having taken place...

Amon Tobin took the 'music-as-sound-design' concept into the main wash of the collective conscious with 2011's ISAM and it's hard not to imagine that Burial sees this release as existing in a similar milieu. Except here Burial goes one step further. We have to imagine that this is pure storytelling, inspired by the world of podcasts perhaps?? "...all that's left is the procedure" an authoritative American voice intones. "analysing.." whispers a robotic voice. It is indeed all method, all technique, with nothing that a Burial fan would necessarily recognise as music. Burial has always championed the use of ambient sound, field recordings, foley and sound-effects, but SubTemple pushes that envelope further than anything he's done before.

Beach Fires resembles more what we have come to associate with the term 'ambient music'. It has a recognisable key, tonality, and even something approaching melody[ ! ] all while building over its near ten minute arc.

Burial became notorious for making his tunes in Soundforge, a wave-editor application that is intended, at least in theory, to be used for sound effects, sound design, audio cleanup, and well, all the actions you need to perform on sound before making that sound into something else. So this could be avant-garde genius or it could be Burial deciding to be purely procedural, and landing closer to something insubstantial. Perhaps this signals a boredom with the possibilities of music? Maybe beating a tactical retreat into the world of sound-design and elliptical narrative is a way to bypass the option-paralysis that the near-godlike possibilities of modern production opens up? Burial has always been an artist favoured by the deep-heads.. this latest release only pushes him deeper.

- Kieran Ruffles.

Album Details

Album Title: SubTemple / Beach Fires
Artist: Burial
Record Label: (Hyperdub / Rocket)