[Review/Listen] – Burial – “Kindred EP”

Something about Burial gets to me. Well really, everything about Burial gets to me. In a good way, of course. Where I live in America, Burial is not exactly a household name, except to those of us who follow the UK garage scene (or ‘future garage’). Those of us who follow the UK garage scene know that a handful of artists dominate it right now, creating dark, off-kilter music that fits the often melancholy mood of deep introversion. Recent blog headlines may mention James Blake, SBTRKT, Jamie Woon, or FaltyDL, but the true king (and creator) of garage is Burial, and his new “Kindred EP” may just be the best thing he’s ever done.

As I stated before, everything about Burial gets to me. His music is elusive, dark, melancholy, lonesome, persistent, and yet constantly alluring. Record crackling emerges from the void, giving way to repetitive, metallic beats and time-stretched vocal samples, like the echoes of R&B songs being plucked from the smokey haze. I connect, as I’m sure many other people do, with the depressed nature of his music, where everything is surreal and nothing matters but getting lost in the music.

“Kindred” materializes from the ashes of sonic ruin with a clashing metal beat, similar to the Burial we know and love. Suddenly it stops to give way to a dark bass drop and a wash of noise. The song skitters around with warm vocal stutters and droning synth pads. It stops and starts again, always familiar and always friendly. For an 11-minute song, it never wears itself out. “Kindred” is the introduction into the new Burial, where beats, noise, and tones are one and the same, ever evolving for extended periods of time.

“Loner” is an interesting track. The track leads with a very ‘house’-y beat and a relentless arpeggio. Resampled vocals layer the background, never coherent, but omnipresent. They are otherworldly whispers, accompanied by a dark, spacious vessel. (I’m aware that sounds moderately stupid and pretentious.) Although, not as good as the first track, “Loner” certainly holds its own.

But, “Ashtray Wasp” is something else entirely. The longest of these three songs (if only by a few seconds), “Ashtray Wasp” is gripping andĀ invigorating. Dark synths layer the track; the beat is pushed to the background and the vocals are brought to the foreground. The song is cinematic and consuming. Voices plead: “I want you,” and “I used to belong to you.” Suddenly the song stops. The noise cascades in and a single voice emerges from the emptiness. Then without warning, the song careens back into gear, slowly evolving until the six-and-a-half minute mark.

There, the song changes again. Ambient noise rolls by accompanied by harmonic washes of sound. Then, comes a new beat and a crooning, time-stretched vocal sample. The song evolves into its final three minutes with soft pianos, gated drum beats, static noise, and organic flourishes of sound. This last movement brings you back down, leaving you, once again, with just your thoughts.

The “Kindred EP” feels like the next logical step for Burial. It’s engrossing and utterly beautiful music. Each track is a journey through ghost landscapes and barren cities, filled not only with grief and loneliness, but hope and a faint shimmer of optimism. This is surely the best thing Burial has released since “Untrue” and, in this reviewer’s opinion, ever. Listen to it right here.

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