Posted on January 9th, 2013 (1:11 pm) by Maxwell Weigel

One of the scarce few times William Bevan, better known by his moniker Burial, has offered his listeners a glimpse into his mind, he acknowledged to The Wire how he prefers “to be unknown,” and how he “never knew what the people who made [the music he likes] looked like anyway. It draws you in. You could believe in it…if it’s more secret.” In this age of TMI-through-Tumblr and other social media, Burial’s music stands out for its mystique and subtlety. In the six years since he gave that interview and released his classic album Untrue, we have seen scattered details such as the elusive producer’s face and birth name revealed, and equally as scattered record releases. We haven’t heard him shift his tunes away from most of the tones utilized in that record. But honing in on the details (always the most important part of his sound) of the Truant/Rough Sleeper single, we can hear a growth in the range and scope of emotions in his music.

And a growth in song length. Each of the tracks on this single and the Kindred EP released earlier this year average in at ten minutes. Burial seems eager to burst open the confines of the typical four-to-six minute electronic track and to convey more than a singular mood. Now, he favors compositions in a sort of warped Sonata form, with more harmonic development and multiple sections with tonal contrasts. Just as classical music composers such as Chopin and Beethoven did, Burial uses these longer formats to convey various aspects of (what we can assume is) his own psyche. Rather than following the strict rules of sonata form, however, he fragments the two songs on this single either with inconspicuous fade-ins and layerings or abrupt silences and signals.

In the aforementioned interview, he mentions how he has “got a truant heart,” a notion he solidifies with the first song “Truant.” It begins with simple, mournful chords and a slow tapping of a rhythm. He knocks on this “truant heart” to see who’s there, yet we hear the reply through hollow, vacant echoes and a sample of a distant voice singing “I fell in love with you.” Before we can learn much more, the song drops out entirely and slowly rises in a moody, cavernous flutter. They rise to the next section of the song, which alleviates the sullen mood with gently rising, glowing strings that breathe life into the “truant heart.” This new, more positive side of Burial, however, ends on an equally rejected note, sounding like trudging through mud in the rain.

“Rough Sleeper” does a wonderful job of simulating the muted, hazy highs and lows associated with insomnia, all while hinting at a new (and potentially more positive) side of Burial. The muted organ chords and sax and vocal samples sound like a church’s gospel music appropriated to a funeral setting. Before the mood becomes too negative, Burial shifts the song into the lighter middle section, with a shuffling beat that impels the song’s disposition upward to angelic chords and vocal harmonies that urge the listener to “be strong.” Regardless of whether he claimed he “can’t make that club sort of stuff” in another interview, the vibe is dancier than ever before, with a steel drum melody that harkens back to the euphoria of a rave. It all sounds suspended halfway between dreaming and waking, and the ending section evokes an insomniac’s subdued remorse over having lost a chance to sleep.

Considering both of the interviews mentioned in this article were conducted in 2007, we doubt Burial will do much to clarify his intentions behind his recent output. Since then, he has not released anything as innovative or definitive as his record released that year. But Burial lives true to his name with this release. Rather than spilling out music and personal details in excess as is common in this era, he buries his public persona within his fragmented and secretive music. And as William Bevan himself mentioned, “you could believe in it…if it’s more secret.”

Track List:
1. Truant
2. Rough Sleeper

Burial, Truant, Rough Sleeper, Truant/Rough Sleeper
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

81 / 100
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