Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Burial

  • Burial [Cargo, 2006] *
  • Untrue [Cargo, 2007] A
  • Street Halo/Kindred [Hyperdub/Beat, 2012] A-
  • Truant/Rough Sleeper [Hyperdub, 2012] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Burial [Cargo, 2006]
Maybe he figured get your beats working first and later for humanism--or maybe he still had a ways to go in the humanity department ("Southern Comfort," "Broken Home"). *

Untrue [Cargo, 2007]
Unlike most New Ambient, Burial's music is emotional, which helps its funk a lot, and eventful, which helps its interest even more. Fifteen years ago, we would have called it trip-hop or, stupidly, illbient (remember that one?). Now it's supposedly dubstep. I wouldn't quite class this with Maxinquaye--melodies and voices could be more distinct with no loss of atmosphere. But Burial--a single, scrupulously anonymous guy (although not so scrupulous that anyone suggests he's a woman)--has a sonic imagination worthy of Mr. Tricky himself. Burbling electronic ticktocks vie with a carillon of bell simulacra, and rarely have vinyl crackle or laser malfunction generated more musicality. The moniker and, apparently, the worldview, are dark, as the kids say. But when the mix is as rich as this, dark goes to a better place. A

Street Halo/Kindred [Hyperdub/Beat, 2012]
Two EPs from the mysterious William Bevan, six tracks divided evenly between his 20-minute 2011 return and his 30-minute 2012 stride forward, cohere almost seamlessly as the album they become when you don't have to turn any plastic over. The accomplished recapitulations of Street Halo--faerie electro-soprano and vinyl sputter-crackle laying their dream and disquiet on the nervous beats?-pause briefly at what is now track four, which takes seven seconds to achieve liminal audibility before slowly building into a peppier elegy than anything he's previously dared. And despite the lamentable title "Ashtray Wasp" (please, I don't want to know), the 12-minute finale begins as a distressed house anthem--not literally uplifting, this is Burial, but inspiring nonetheless?-and then trails off into something more lyrical. Thoughtful, even. A-

Truant/Rough Sleeper [Hyperdub, 2012]
In which the mystery man follows up the Kindred EP with what is nominally a two-"song" "single," each title divided into silence-separated sections and the whole thing clocking in at 25:32 it says here. Background music it's not--while I admired it fine doing my daytime musical tasks, I only got it when I put it on at five o'clock in the morning, whereupon I discovered that its spooky gravity and deliberate movement suggested elegiac or perhaps even inspirational goals. Fifteen years later, the Alan Lomax gospel samples of Moby's Play are regarded as shamelessly corny in the techno world. I wonder whether the opening organ melody and very nearly hooky keyboard-ostinato facsimile that comes in around 8:30 of "Rough Sleeper" will offend ascetic snobs another decade or two down the line. A-