Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sound Of Confusion

Burial - Untrue (Hyperdub)

Last year’s debut Burial album caused something of a word-of-mouth sensation, moving well beyond hardcore dubstep followers and earning itself a surprising place in even Uncut magazine’s albums of the year. Yet that album was really just a collection of individual pieces developed over a period of years and it may have only touched on what this elusive, anonymous producer can achieve. Its rapid fire follow-up, ‘Untrue’, is a more coherent and powerful statement.

It retains the mysterious, vaguely threatening sound that made the debut so compelling, but whilst that album conjured a truly urban vision, ‘Untrue’ seems more human and broadly appealing. Its greater reliance on cut-up snatches of ghostly vocals adds emotional depth to the crackling, edgy atmospheres. It also makes for a more accessible, but no less uncomfortable musical vision. Essentially, there is soul as well as intelligence in this music.

Somehow, ‘Untrue’ succeeds in being at once very approachable and profoundly disconcerting. It is bleak, occasionally even harrowing, but also richly moving rather than cold or detached. Time will tell, but I already get the sense that it is a genre classic to rival Goldie’s ‘Timeless’ or Tricky’s ‘Maxinquaye’. It has that alchemical balance of confrontation, poise and impact that made those albums so crucial. It captures a sense of disorientation and isolation amidst the roaring, non-stop city environment that is timely and insightful. It's actually rather similar to Thom Yorke's sense of alienation, but it captures this without recourse to anything as earthy as his rather limiting language.

The sound and mood is so consistently eerie that it makes little sense to highlight individual tracks, although ‘Archangel’ and ‘Ghost Hardware’ are immediately striking. The fragmentary approach to production not only creates plenty of space (a subtle quality often missing from the more relentless forms of dance music) but also makes for a very contemporary and refreshing statement of melodic craftsmanship. It’s an album that is very easy to become immersed in – strangely familiar in its dystopian spirit, yet so clearly original and innovative.

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