Burial - Untrue 2xLP
Record of the year, 2007. As far as some of us are concerned, there's no question. Burial's first album was an eponymous release on Kode 9's Hyperdub imprint and really came out of nowhere. Here was this amalgamation of British dance tropes (e.g. dubstep, 2-step garage, darkcore drum & bass, etc.) into a magnificent exercise in mood engineering. Even though an urban malaise echoes through the whollop bass-bin rattle of most dubstep, that first Burial record mined a melancholy whose dramatic power has never been heard in dubstep, and rarely matched even by such downbeat experts as Massive Attack, Boards of Canada, Slowdive, or even Joy Division. So with his second album Untrue, the aesthetic framework for Burial remains intact; yet the anonymous figure behind Burial has admitted that he was seeking a "downcast euphoria." You know what, he fucking nailed it. All of the sounds retain the first album's urban dourness reverberating through each electron and washed drone. The hovering basslines which once stalked the darkest of jungle's rhythms are ghostly presences flickering around Burial's atypical drum programming, which by his own admission is done by hand without the aid of a sequencer. The clipped, 2-step breakbeats always appear as the cocking of a gun; but it doesn't seem like Burial is taking aim at his audience. Rather, it's metaphor for the cold, inhumane existence in the grimy parts of London, where violence is just another thing to shrug at and move beyond. All of these sounds are clearly present in Burial's debut album, but the "euphoric" part of Untrue's intention is found in Burial's use of voice. Taking a cappella tunes sung by his friends (sometimes, left as a voice mail on his cellphone), Burial has crafted an eerie cast of disembodied vocals, twisted into cybernetic R&B croons, all clipped and compressed in the same manner as his pistol-whipped snare cracks. It's as if the human voice alone can transcend the dire circumstances of our earthly confines, even when the songs reflected broken dreams and a dwindling hope. Burial seeks out the fleeting moments of beauty and raw emotion, codifying it through his impeccable craft on this very impressive and soon to be iconic recording. If you're not hearing it from us, you'll hear from somebody else: Burial's Untrue is the best record of 2007.