But to call Burton a grime producer tells only a fraction of his story. Once he emerged, his online mixes and DJ sets started to tell a different one altogether. They were full of dark ambient, noise, industrial and experimental music, making it clear his influences extended well beyond grime. He's utterly unconcerned with dance music tropes, and his signing to Tri Angle last year aligned him with a label who shared his all-over-the-map, outside-the-box approach to electronic music. His first Tri Angle record, Baptizm, was promising but inconsequential. Communion, on the other hand, is more complete, a harrowing work that turns dance music in on itself until it feels evil and destructive.
Baptizm channeled Burton's ideas through the brittle steel and glass structures of modern grime, whereas Communion plays with a more wide-open field. The influences are still there, but they've changed. Take "Snow Leopard," the second track and a rather violent mood-setter. You'll find the translucent synths of his earliest work, now packaged with glitchy rhythms and a gloomy melody that sounds more John Carpenter than JME. It hits with frightening ferocity, which isn't just a matter of being loud. Communion's dynamic range is impressive, not to mention unusual for an electronic music record in 2015. The LP's empty spaces only make it more of a nail-biter.
Communion seems intent on shaking any sense of calm from its audience. "Artemis" is completely unhinged, built on a grunting and crudely-assembled sound collage. "Trapped In This Body" is blackened, macabre funk. "Pandemic," where grime falls out of the equation completely, is the album's towering centerpiece, a thrashing industrial hellscape that'd make Genesis P-Orridge feel unsettled. It's hard to listen to Communion without thinking of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, whose prints are all over the album in subtle ways, like the British vocal samples on "Flesh Covers The Bone" or the eeriness of "Glass Harp Interlude."
Burton's debut album is more than an industrial pastiche, particularly in its firm commitment to body and machine. It's visceral in more ways than one. "Artemis" is like listening to someone in a fit of anger, while "Ox" pairs what could be animal noises with dentist drill basslines. The synths on "Black Gates" sound like they're being violently coughed out. These elements give Communion an extra edge. What people can forget about the oft-imitated early electronic and industrial records is how powerful and terrifying they felt in the late-'70s and early-'80s, and how they were more than just electronics. What Burton nails on Communion is how to fold in sounds from all over—electronic music and the real world—to make powerful and terrifying music in 2015. If the club is a shelter from an oppressive and dangerous society, then Communion is what waits outside.