Burial is the moniker of William Bevan, a reclusive South Londoner who has become one of the most acclaimed, influential, and enigmatic electronic musicians of the early 21st century, thanks to his groundbreaking music as well as his reluctance to reveal any information about himself. Inspired by the anonymity of British club music, particularly garage, jungle, and hardcore, his tracks blend fractured breakbeats with mysterious, pitch-shifted voices and loads of vinyl crackle, rainfall, and submerged video game sound effects, creating gloomy, dystopian soundscapes evoking lonely nights spent wandering around an empty, desolate city. While his self-titled 2006 debut (one of the first notable dubstep full-lengths) received wide acclaim from the underground music press, the astonishing 2007 follow-up Untrue proved to be a major artistic breakthrough. Not only was it one of the most widely praised albums of the year, but its influence endured throughout the following decade, with countless producers emulating its vocal manipulations and dramatic, rain-soaked atmospherics. Collaborations with Four Tet, Thom Yorke, and Massive Attack followed, as well as several EPs which ranged from abstract, cinematic suites (2012's Kindred, 2013's Rival Dealer) to more club-friendly singles (2017's "Rodent"). While Burial continued to refrain from making public appearances or releasing a third album, he collaborated with Kode9 to mix Fabriclive100, the final volume of the long-running mix CD series, in 2018. Burial debuted in March 2005 on the Hyperdub label with the South London Borough EP, which included the tracks "Southern Comfort" and "Broken Home." These two tracks would be among the highlights of the full-length album Burial (2006), whose release was accompanied by a second EP, Distant Lights (2006). Comprising bleak, evocative dubstep -- one track, "Night Bus," is entirely beatless, driven only by sampled rainfall and eerie synth melodies -- Burial was critically acclaimed, and most notably voted Album of the Year by The Wire; it was also voted among the best albums of the year by Mixmag. Burial's second album, Untrue (2007), was eagerly awaited as a result of all the acclaim; an EP, Ghost Hardware (2007), was released a few months in advance, drumming up further interest. Like its predecessor, Untrue was critically acclaimed, voted among the best albums of the year by XLR8R, for instance, and reviewed even more favorably than its predecessor. In February 2008, British newspaper The Independent made a claim that William Bevan, indeed a native of South London, was the individual behind Burial. Bevan later confirmed the report, continued to record under his alias, and issued several collaborative works with the likes of former schoolmate Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), Thom Yorke, Massive Attack, and Jamie Woon. He issued three additional Hyperdub EPs -- Street Halo, Kindred, and Truant -- in 2011 and 2012. A Japanese CD release combined the first two. Bevan's 2013 was quiet until that December, when he released a three-track EP for Hyperdub titled Rival Dealer. A single-sided 12" titled Temple Sleeper surfaced on Keysound in 2015. The following year, Burial collaborated with Zomby on a track called "Sweetz," which appeared on Zomby's Ultra album and was also released as a single. Later in the year, Burial's Young Death/Nightmarket arrived on Hyperdub. In April of 2017, Burial's remix of Goldie's jungle classic "Inner City Life" was released by Metalheadz. The following month, Burial's ambient Subtemple EP appeared on Hyperdub. He returned to beat-driven material in September with the garage-leaning single "Rodent," which was backed with a remix by Hyperdub boss Kode9, as well as "Pre Dawn," which appeared on Non Plus. In 2018, Burial and Kode9 mixed Fabriclive100, the conclusion of one of the two mix-CD series produced by London club Fabric. Single "Claustro"/"State Forest" appeared in 2019, and Burial ended the year with Tunes 2011-2019, a double-CD compiling most of his Hyperdub-issued output throughout the decade.
© Jason Birchmeier & Paul Simpson /TiVo
© Jason Birchmeier & Paul Simpson /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 5, 2007 | Hyperdub
Burial, the self-titled debut album by an anonymous dubstep producer from London, proved one of the more surprising success stories of 2006. It was voted Album of the Year by the influential experimental-electronic magazine The Wire and was fawned over by a long list of other media, from Mixmag to Pitchfork. Upon the release of Untrue, the second Burial album, the cycle of acclaim appeared likely to repeat itself. While Untrue isn't likely to win many, if any, Album of the Year honors (in the wake of the debut's acclaim, the novelty of Burial lessened considerably), the album's arguably even better than its predecessor. Untrue finds its anonymous producer streamlining the varied approach of his debut, resulting is a uniform collection of tracks that are subtly evolving variations of each other. Following an untitled, foreboding intro, Untrue kicks off with the simply melodic "Archangel" and culminates 45 minutes later with the majestic "Raver," a summary conclusion. There aren't any MC-featuring tracks such as "Spaceape" as there were on the debut, nor is there any hard-hitting tech-step à la "Southern Comfort"; instead, every track on Untrue seems cut of the same cloth, emphasizing ghostly vocal loops, shadowy ambient motifs, and the warped rhythmic signatures of 2-step. One of the key highlights is "Ghost Hardware," the closest the album comes to genuine dance music. It's followed by another standout, "Endorphin," an ambient interlude that shimmers for three minutes, entirely free of beats, before the sub-frequency bassline of "Etched Headplate," one of the album's most melodic and memorable songs, cuts through the stillness. Untrue is most evocative when listened to in sequence, for the moods and characteristics of each track evolve as the album progresses. Once "Raver" brings the proceedings to a close, though, it's the overall impression of the Untrue that stays with you, more so than any particular tracks. If you can appreciate the style of dubstep employed by Burial, it's easy to fall head over heels for Untrue, an album on which there are absolutely no mainstream-crossover concessions, no ego trips, and no willful stylistic variation -- an album where the music, a singular style of it, takes center stage with no distractions or sideshows, where there's never the urge to skip to the next track, because they're all part and parcel of the greater whole. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
Electronic - Released May 15, 2006 | Hyperdub
Burial is the first great dubstep album, legitimizing a style -- a generally dark, emotive, and faceless dub offshoot of 2-step -- that had thus far been confined to 12" vinyl and the underground club scene. Even though a couple of the tracks ("Southern Comfort," "Broken Home") had been previously released on the South London Boroughs EP (2005), Burial doesn't sound like a compilation of one-off productions to date, as is often the case with music of this kind. It's a true album, a unified collection of songs similar in style as well as mood yet also distinct enough from one another to remain engaging over the course of 13 tracks in 51 minutes. As if it were a well-selected mix album, Burial flows well from one track to the next; the exception is "Spaceape," the only song featuring a vocalist (and unfortunately sequenced third, disrupting the flow just as it begins). While some tracks stand out ("Distant Lights," "Southern Comfort," "Gutted," "Broken Home"), they're interspersed by low-key tracks such as "Night Bus" and "Forgive" that enhance the overall mood and space out the highlights. As the hazy, mostly black cover art of the album (a nighttime aerial photograph of South London) suggests, the mood of Burial is dim, distant, and rather dreary; from a subjective standpoint, one might characterize it as the sound of 3:00 a.m., a time of reflection and perhaps remorse, of being alone after the party's come to an end. There is an emotional aspect at work that is key to this mood, a sullen sense of despair especially evident in the ambient interludes, communicated also in the ghostly vocal samples. The technical aspect of Burial is remarkable, too. The album's subterranean basslines and skittering rhythms, along with its array of found sounds and production effects, are simple yet inventive, austere yet evocative. Other dubstep producers have crafted a similar style, make no mistake, but Burial is the first to craft it on the scale of a full-length album so effectively. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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