Burial – “Loner”

By: Jack Stein

The game has changed pretty significantly since the last time Burial basked in the spotlight (which, for this reclusive and shadowy dude, is probably some sort of creepy flickering streetlight illuminating a deserted thoroughfare.) When the hermetic London-based producer released the widely lauded Untrue LP in 2007, it was instantly held in the same regard as prior landmark electronic albums such as The Knife’s Silent Shout, Massive Attack’s Blue Lines or even Brian Eno’s Another Green World. Long story short, it was unlike anything we had heard before, melding the spooky dissonance of the aforementioned Massive Attack with an almost funereal sense of ethereality. Listening to Untrue, even in the light of day, was akin taking a midnight stroll down the darkest alley your urban metropolis had to offer, constantly glancing over your shoulder to see if you had any suitors, all while feeling a palpable sense of loss that Burial’s haunted vocal samples imbued the record with. One listen to the untouchable “Archangel” from that record tells you all you need to know.

Here’s the fun part: in 2007, this was referred to as “dubstep.” Read that sentence again. It takes all of one listen to realize that the glorified hair metal-esque catharsis of America’s newest frat party music staple has nothing to do with the record that laid the foundation for this booming scene. Hell, if you even tried to sneak Burial’s name in along with the ilk of Avicii or Calvin Harris during casual conversation, more than one sorority girl would likely either laugh in your face or spill her drink on you (or both.)

As a result, Burial has got to pretty pissed that his genre has been overtaken in this manner. However, rather than defiantly churn out more of the same downtempo and lethargy-infused (albeit beautiful) music that Untrue and last year’s water-treading Street Halo EP were built upon, Burial adapts to his new environment by upping the beats per minute and embracing the more house-tinged aspects of 2012’s dubstep scene, showing a remarkable malleability that most of us thought the sullen & sonically staid producer lacked. The wonderful thing is that it results in Burial’s best work yet; recalling the shift to the dance floor that Animal Collective made three years ago with Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Kindred EP sees a renowned artist opeining up their sonic template while maintaining the essence of what made them essential in the first place.

While Burial’s entire recently-released Kindred EP is worth your time and devotion, the track that most acutely shows our hero in new form is “Loner”, a sort of palate cleanser nestled between the two suite-like tracks that open and close the record. Opening with a frightened vocal sample and easing into his trademark nightmarish ambient swirl, it seems like vintage Burial; however, after a slow start the track explodes as a thumping 4/4 beat and cascading synths take you on an MDMA-infused ride. The rave-like atmosphere here works in perfect harmony with the serotonin-deprived fog that Burial made his name on, creating the sensation that you are peaking and experiencing a comedown simultaneously. Above all else, Burial perfectly captures the subtle sadness lurking beneath the sweaty cesspool of every 2 am dance party. After all, gyrating the night away in a state of chemically-induced “bliss” isn’t all that different from spending it wandering the streets alone in solitude; for harnessing the sound of attempted escape from the demons that haunt us, this is your guy, and this is your soundtrack.

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