By Greg Salter
The first 50 seconds of Burial’s ‘Kindred’ feel familiar, mournful and comforting – there’s the synth washes rising steadily on minor chords, the flicker of a distorted, androgynous vocal somewhere in the mix and the ambient patter of heavy rain, broken by thunder. Suddenly, the beats kick in – they’re the familiar hollow, metallic beats that Burial gave us on his 2006 self-titled debut and much-loved 2007 breakthrough Untrue, but far more aggressive. While Untrue was widely embraced (and widely imitated) for its emotive approach to the then-still-underground genre of dubstep, then ‘Kindred’, briefly, does something Burial’s music has never done before – it unsettles. Further to that: if Untrue cast the faded glamour of UK garage in monotones and memories, the‘Kindred’ brings in elements of jungle and even drum and bass to create something altogether more intense and threatening.
‘Kindred’ is the opening piece of music on a three-track EP that stretches to just over 30 minutes – as a whole, the Kindred EP shows the continued expansion of Burial’s music that last year’s Street Halo hinted at. Songs have extended in length, from the smaller vignettes of Burial and Untrue, through Street Halo’s 5-6 minute pieces – now ‘Kindred’ reaches over 11 minutes, while the phenomenal ‘Ashtray Wasp’ pushes 12. This temporal expansion has allowed him to incorporate new influences into his tracks that he only previously have hinted at – the jungle references on ‘Kindred’, for example, or the way ‘Loner’ and ‘Ashtray Wasp’ are propelled by a less syncopated house beat.
Burial’s music has also become grander in terms of its production – there is more depth to these compositions and sounds are layered here to such an extent that, on headphones, Kindred becomes all-consuming. There’s a lot of noise here too – it’s not just the occasional crackle of a needle on vinyl: these previously incidental noises create bursts of noise and distortion that impede on the music, breaking up sections and, in the case, of ‘Loner’, signalling the outro of the track. Elsewhere, as in the more ambient latter stages of ‘Kindred’ or ‘Ashtray Wasp’, it sounds like Burial recorded the sound of a record being scraped and worn down.
All of these new elements are worth mentioning because, elsewhere, Burial seems to be doing what he’s always done – the distorted vocals, the poignant melodies, the post-UKG beats, all, somehow, evoking a solitary, ambiguous, but easily recognisable kind of urban experience. The way he’s folded these into longer compositions and other influences that more explicitly reference rave culture mean Kindred is his darkest, most unsettling set of tracks to date – and if you’ve lived in London, or any of England’s large cities, over the past year or so, this might all seem highly appropriate. More than anything, Burial’s music weaves brief moments of euphoria and emotion into the fairly ordinary and Kindred finds him doing that powerfully once again – which is why this EP, along with his other material, will continue to find a receptive and devout audience.