By TOMMY GREENE
We haven’t heard from Burial for a while; not since his collaboration with Four Tet about a year ago, which gave us the quiet and powerful Nova. The new offering is something quite different to his last outing. Truant/Rough Sleeper is out in 12” EP format (as was the superb Kindred) – a format he is beginning to claim for his own.
These two tracks are more complex, intricate works than any in Burial’s previous oeuvre, opened by Truant and its dark, yet variegated segments. Making use of a number of unnerving silences, the subtle, slow-burning track suddenly accelerates into hyperspace around 6 minutes in. What was before a gritty development of Massive Attack is stimulated into dreary action by patchy, artificial synth. There is a hazy tension of emotion at the song’s disorderly zenith, a twenty-first century crescendo. The background scratching and Thom Yorke-esque groans that flit in and out of the piece give it a ghostly and eerie resonance, as well as a gritty realism. The end product is a drug-like netherworld, utterly absorbing – containing a mine of content for repeated listens.
Rough Sleeper is, at first, comparatively more immediate and direct, instantly transporting the listener to a dark and euphoric, spatial plane of psychosis. An atmospheric organ-effect synth is quickly cut through by a sharp, intervening 2-step garage beat. A short dubstep rhythm soon joins the complex interplay of sound, reinforced by a range of jazz and vocal samples. The track takes so many dips and turns of tone and melody that it is very hard to pin it down. In a quasi-chiastic trajectory, its overall progression peters out into ambient meditation, and a steel drum rhythm carries the work to its close.
It seems – for now at least – that Burial can do no wrong. And normally this would constitute a beautiful part of any musician’s career, where he/she is untouchable at a creative peak. But you don’t at all get the sense that this is as good as it gets for Burial.