30 December 2007

Here is something else I wrote on a message board.

Burial – Untrue


So much to say about this album, and so little that hasn't already been driven into the ground and rendered cliché. I’ll keep it short, as my time with the album still hasn’t been as long and involved as I would have liked. At a time when the term 'rave' is being misappropriated for use on marketing cheap 'n' gaudy jackets and finger-painting indie bands, it's nice to know some people know what the term actually means.

One such person is Neil Landstrumm, whose Restaurant of Assassins set earlier this year was an incredibly satisfying melange of basic three-chord punk Ardkore melodies and modern production techniques (rather reminiscent of LFO's storming last album – Stealth (2003) – then). The bass was humongous and dominating, the whole thing was vibing like people in 'intelligent' 'dance' circles had largely forgotten to do in the late nineties and it was a riot.

Meanwhile, the closest thing to what we used to call 'raves' today is the local dubstep sound-system: you’d have DMZ, Skream, Kromestar and co testing the bass bins and noise pollution laws while people get high, get low, get mashed and feel the power. But while all that is happening, the jubilation of the rave-naissance and general middle-class debauchery (not that there's anything wrong with that) rings hollow with one man: the mysterious Burial. Burial has been thinking about rave too, and he also knows what it's all about. He's not one to pretend everything's OK though.

Burial is thoughtful and sensitive, lurking existentially in the corners like Hamlet while his peers pray at the altar of the divine party. He's mourning what he considers the true epoch of rave, that halcyon time of ice pops, Game & Watch, shell suits and the voices of ubiquitous anonymous rave divas filling the clubs. Where is it now, he asks, to nobody in particular. The signal's echoing randomly out there somewhere, so Burial devises a means of dragging the fading signal into the now. But rather than attempt any kind of futile resuscitation like all too many revivalists in the here and the now, he is content to use his technology to peer longingly and distantly at what remains, like a musicological Hubble staring at the extinct beauty of sonic stars long imploded.

Whether by the music's own design or a lingering artistic frustration with the trend of hauntology, our plucky hero transcends the limits of this hypothetical music-time continuum, and the ghosts we hear in the grooves are imbued with the emptiness and decay of the black holes that remain where those stars once shone so brightly. We're stuck in time. The anonymous vocals, at one life so proud and exuberant are now pained and withered, and the anguish of a lost lifestyle is plain for all to hear while the transmission gets interrupted by stray rhythms and the mist of gloaming. Like those super-powerful lenses that allow us to see what once was all those millennia ago, and like the ruins of great civilisations that can be seen today in mainland Europe and South America, Untrue is at once a jarring reminder of what has been lost and a time-capsular snapshot of what stands in its place now.

In his painstaking reconstruction/deconstruction, Burial has created an album – a document – that should be a self pitying exercise in futility. However, Untrue manages to sidestep such fate with its doomed last ditch nobility in the immutably unyielding shadow of Chronos. This music knows it is going to die. It really already is dead, despite the necromantic efforts of Todd Edwards, the Riff Raff Crew et al. Burial just doesn't want us to forget a great lost musical civilisation, and who are we to deny him a moment of reminiscence when his thoughts are filled with such beauty as this?

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