For a producer so revered in club music circles, Burial has spent his entire career at a remove from the scene and the dance. It could very well be the reason for his music's longevity in the face of shifting trends: Burial isn't about what's happening right now or what's tipped to be next but about what happened, whether it's the music ringing in your ears from the night before or the longstanding source of your chronic tinnitus. Loving Burial doesn't mean you have to stay utterly current on the UK's every machination or microtrend. But if you've ever loved music—if the club has ever meant more to you than a night out, a handful of drugs and a face-melting drop—then Burial probably rings true: his music is about loving music.
On the handful of singles and two classic albums he's released through Hyperdub, the formerly anonymous producer has placed that love of music in the context of deep loss: from HDB001 through to last year's seemingly out-of-nowhere Street Halo EP, a generation of heads heard that nameless rave—the archetype that's long been the itch in Burial's subconscious—drift ever onward toward its vanishing point. That drift stops with Kindred, Burial's striking new record: if only for one moment, that thing that seemed gone forever is present. It's almost certainly the producer's most ambitious and most vital work since Untrue.
"Kindred" opens in the midst of a rainstorm that's plenty familiar to longtime Burial listeners—mournful chords against the sizzle of wet pavement. But we quickly realize those crashes aren't thunder: the whole city is shaking. The groove that Burial's still-unmatched drums and blown-out bass fall into pounces angrily at first, but the angelic voice that swoops in knocks the dissonance right out of the arrangement, even if just temporarily. At well over 11 minutes, "Kindred" is epic by almost any definition. But for a producer whose work is notable for its intimacy, the track finds Burial in a balancing act, embracing compositional enormity while still making you feel whispered to.
"Loner" puts us as close to the floor as Burial ever has, even if we seem to be viewing things through cataracts. Where "Street Halo" similarly explored 4/4 beats, "Loner" exudes an agitated palpability that sets it apart. By "Ashtray Wasp," another 11-minute-plus excursion, we feel that presence begin to evaporate, those lonely, all-too-real streets once again encroaching on euphoria. The EP ends with the same distant booms and crackles that signaled its entrance, leaving us as forlorn and lost as Burial ever has. But the mourning is more tangible this time, as if instead of sharing a feeling, he's broken off a piece of what no longer is.
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Tracklist: Burial - Kindred 01. Kindred
03. Ashtray Wasp