Whenever a new Burial track emerges from the alleys of South London, it's a communal thing. As you listen for the first time, you can imagine thousands of others doing just the very same. Hyperdub's resident recluse Will Bevan's second release of 2012 felt no different. But listening through "Truant" for the first time, I was struck by how profoundly strange it was. People all over the world were clamouring to hear a 12-minute suite full of false endings, fragmented passages and unresolved melodies. For perhaps the first time since originally discovering his self-titled LP, I was forced to probe deeper: just how does this music manage to provoke such a visceral response from such a wide berth of people?
The year's first Burial release, Kindred, was his "biggest" yet—the tracks were longer than ever before, beefier, and packed an emotional wallop that was impressive even by his standards. He continues down the "epic" path apace, except where "Kindred" and "Loner" had cinematic builds, every time these two new tracks choose a path, they suddenly fall apart. "Truant"'s stirring chord progressions, roiling basslines and intricate vocal manipulation are a recipe for a Burial masterstroke, yet none of these things actually occur simultaneously. The theatrical motifs are separated by gulfs of percussive tumbles, the vocals dragged over a frayed canvas and climax is cruelly snuffed out.
The 14-minute "Rough Sleeper" is much the same, but the track's midsection—wavering and tentative—has one of Bevan's most beautiful moments. As triumphant, otherworldly bells fly in from above, the rare note of celebration momentarily renders everything clear. The entire EP has built up to this moment, and it's heart-wrenching in an entirely different way than the rest of the Burial catalogue.
Of course, all that majesty fades out into licks of static, before "Rough Sleeper" pulls itself together with some 2006-style roughshod wheeling. Listeners are left in the lurch as they try to piece together the past 26 minutes. Truant is a rather audacious move for an artist who could have easily relied on the same formula for years to come and still struck gold.
Buy Burial - Truant at
Tracklist: Burial - Truant A Truant
B Rough Sleeper