Thursday, February 25, 2016

Burial - Truant / Rough Sleeper Review


0:14 - Wind chimes sway to the calming current under a presumptuously welcoming synth and Burial’s plastic, yet dexterous drums.

0:29 - A minuscule break in the space-time continuum that glitches through the drums. It’s a Burial trademark and one sewn through the fabric of the EP, constantly shifting the focus away from the tedious elements of Electronic music to make every inch of something inherently repetitive interesting.

0:43 - A female echo comes through, not to lead the R&B flavor one is typically accustomed to, but rather to incite a riotous bass unfamiliar to the UK artist’s work.

0:52 - That bass, like his drums, aren’t placeholders. It’s given care, switching constantly between patterns and vibrations, keeping the listener on edge, through either intrigue or suspense.

1:28 - A jarring laser comes in to disrupt the elements, a technique Burial will use, in different ways, throughout the EP. The drums stay in the background post-coitus, as if it’s their last dying breaths before fading out to the siren calling sounds of space.

1:41 - What emerges is the bass, the wreckage of the past. And then, Burial’s best usage of an obscured female vocalists. With nothing but the bass and some light drums to guide her procession, that voice, “I fell in love with you” she decries, leads much of the next couple minutes. Those synths from the opening return, along with the wind chimes, as well as some haunting vocals beneath all the layers. This specific part shows the greatness of Burial’s music unlike anything else he’s done. Why? Try looking for that vocal sample. It’s clear enough right? Well no one’s been able to find it, and the clearest possible instance is that of a Youtube video covering another song. Mind you, that original sounds nothing like it does here, as the producer managed to slow it down, warp it, and yet keep it sounding entirely human. Outstanding.

3:46 - The vinyl tone arm goes flying off the record, causing a slippage that the ensuing five seconds of silence uses to reinitialize another portion of his excellence.

3:55 - This time it’s much more alarming, with bass reverberations calling out imminent distress. A consistent, intersecting pattern of Drum N’ Bass collide without much depth, clearing the air for haunting sirens to fly in between.

4:09 - That is, of course, before the bass gets angry and filled, devouring everything and pulsating the vocals that come in, making them nearly indistinguishable. It all happens so fast and skittish, unwavering in physical abundance. Hand claps reaching through the crowd at a rave come under all this chaos. 

5:11 - It stops and cuts off for no other reason than to disrupt the natural flow. A male voice comes through, unrecognizable, but acts like a DJ wanting more and then giving it, bringing all the elements back, including some more convulsing synths, to feed the needy club goers. This moment is entirely captivating in its commitment to dragging music out of its hearing senses.

6:24 - A monumental shift in emotive dissonance. A palpable keyboard medley obstructs the view of the club and takes the listener out to the city streets as a looming synth begins to emerge out of the background. These are daring, stuttering, and celebratory. A sense of uncomfortable familiarity rises, unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. 

6:58 - The Drum N’ Bass, more cooled down this time, returns with an angelic voice working as another instrument in the encapsulating field of ambience. Some textures, including that of a male voice with effectual modification, weave through the scenery, as if driving down the abandoned city streets and seeing the homeless passerbyers, safe in the comfort of your car to the dangers looming outside. 

8:26 - The bass breaks off, as does the rest of the building momentum, as if to accept some approaching problems. The rain that emerges, along with the lightning strikes and distant echoes, only submerges this thought further. Some garbage can-layered drums facilitate the direction for some mere moments. 

9:20 - The music reaches a standstill of unknowing, lingering in the middle sections of about half a dozen moving components. That is before a blindsided synth comes barreling in, before abruptly being taken out, only to be replaced by long winded synths dripping down from the heavens. It is a very, very uneasy place that messes with your perception of what’s to come.

10:14 - And then, all of it comes back with a vengeance, like a wrecking ball in the night. Sirens overhead steaming bass and scattered drums to onset the dilemmas of the alleyways.

10:43 - In possibly Burial’s most unnatural, and quick-witted, transition period an upheaval occurs where the entire soundscape switches to a jungle setting Drum N’ Bass taken straight out of the early 90’s. It distorts the picture incredulously, toying with the listeners perception of what is exactly going on, even going so far as to flip that pattern on its own head. It acts like a beatdown given by the crackheads in said alley, being battered and bruised, tossed and turned, taking out any of the emotive resonance we typically expect from Burial. And then ‘Truant’ ends.

Rough Sleeper

0:00 - As the title, and the rainstorm that lightly passes under Burial’s prototypical rising synths and wind chimes, implies this track is what occurs after the night takes its toll. Small vocal cues quip over focused percussions and balanced synths. When the vocals soar its purposefully delicate, dry, and derelict, breaking the limits of the record itself as it nearly escapes the confines of the limited soundscape. It may cause ears to clench but once the sparks settle down and nestle in you see it’s ultimate purpose.

1:20 - A magnificent beast of a bass erupts out of nowhere as the voice screams in displeasure. Nightmares are afoot in the background while the consistency of night continues onwards. Small echoes in reality, like the one that haphazardly says “can you feel me?,” passes through one ear and out the other. 

1:42 - A saxophone emerges for a few planned notes. Why? To further perpetuate the existence of ourselves in the dream state, an uncharacteristic instrument strewn about a sea of understanding. This is all before returning to semblance, with the voice and organized production finding unison once again.

2:26 - And then, as if randomly chosen, the bass returns to force the singer to scream once more, as the nightmares lay waste over the sense of familiarity just for a moment. It’s this constant unawareness that makes Burial’s music some of the most prolific. The saxophone returns for its few notes, a pummeling beat erupts just once, a second voice joins the first to play fiddle with each other. It’s all adding to the aloofness that’s constantly afoot in his music.

3:48 - The crackling of the vinyl and rain splashing on the windows distinctly highlights this as a turning point to ‘Rough Sleeper’s’ main feature.

4:15 - I won’t go so far as to declare this my favorite moment on the EP, there’s too many to pick anyone, but this is by far the closest thing to early Burial if anyone wants to relive that in glorious HD. It represents the bulk of ‘Rough Sleeper,’ and for good reason. The drums are seminal, the vocals are chopped and withered, a prominent feature of the piece. Constant vinyl crackling, or rain splashes as you’re unsure, fills the background along with gliding synths filling the walls. It’s thee most prototypical Burial track there is. 

6:12 - That is, until this happens. A breadth of warmth and nostalgia rises over the listener as a joyful procession of childlike bells welcomes you to another realm. The feeling of the entire track finally changes from nightmare, to unsure purgatory, to pleasant dream. It only dissipates to some silent sampling of a song from a distant past, a strange transition even by Burial standards. Thankfully all that is good in the world allows the main tracking to return for one long go around.

9:21 - The bells wind down as more sprinkling, along with some city sounds, join the fading synths that signal silence. Cars pass by in puddles. Thunder crackles outside the window.

9:58 - A clashing siren welcomes some rattling chains and echoing vibrations, like the underbelly of a subway system progressing onwards into the wee hours of night. 

10:33 - Finally some substance as distant synths layer over one another with Burial’s drums, this time more beefy and palpable, layered over one another. There’s a lot of instrumentation on display here, and yet it still feels ambient and indirect, like nothing more than a mere passage of time. Crying keyboards eventually make their way in, as do some minor vocal cuts that never last more than a second. It’s chaotic serenity. 

12:35 - And while all that battles for supremacy the overall winner is the rain, the only thing perpetually coming down. The vinyl crackles become louder and more obtuse, to the point where it’s nearly the only thing left. That is before disgruntled drums do their best to lay claim to the foundation once more, with swirling vocals parading around behind them and some haunting synths that dazzle like a light show under the full moon. 

13:47 - And then, with one final tone arm slip, the EP ends. Abruptly, as was expected.

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