I've had quite a lot of Dubstep coming my way recently, but I've chosen to review most of it for the next issue of Woofah, mainly because I want to lend some support to John and Paul's endeavours. I really enjoyed issue #1, though I felt that the dubstep reviews section was a bit weak (not the quality of the reviews, just the meagre amount). Plus it was interesting for me to try working in a different medium from the blog, giving me a bit of focus and discipline to get stuff written for the deadlines. I think issue #2 is due early next month. Looking forward to it. In the meantime, I need to write a few things here on stuff that arrived too late, or was already being reviewed by someone else, or isn't officially released yet. I'll try and get a little dupstep round-up post sorted soon, but for now here's some thoughts on the album of the moment...
Y'know, I tend to avoid writing about stuff that's already getting heavy coverage elsewhere, and certainly it seems that everyone has an opinion on Burial's second album. The Dissensus thread is currently over 30 pages long, and is just one of several forum threads full of heated discussion on this album. The reviews are coming thick and fast, even Doppelganger's had a stab at expressing his reaction to it, and Carl at The Impostume made me chuckle with his acerbic wit. With so much opinion flying around, my natural reaction is to just sit back and watch. I really don't think I have anything to say on the matter that hasn't already been expressed somewhere. But Hyperdub sent me a complimentary copy of the CD (after I'd already bought the vinyl edition!) so I'm honour-bound to give it some coverage. Of course, I should mention that I've been reppin' Burial from very early on - who remembers my highly influential "23 Minutes Under Croydon" mix from May 2005? (the same month that I dropped "South London Burroughs" into my dj set at a Venetian Snares gig in Cardiff, to the utter indifference of all who witnessed it). And then in January last year I made the connection with Hauntology, three months before K-Punk stuck his oar in on the eve of the eponymous debut album. Man, I am all about Burial. I dunno who he is, nor do I need to know. I could try pumping Kek for info seeing as he's interviewed the man face-to-face, but I wouldn't want to put that sort of pressure on the old bugger. Besides, I'm terrible at keeping secrets (guilty of having 'outed' a couple of artists in the past) so I can't be trusted with such information anyway. It's bound to come out eventually anyway - remember when everyone was debating who Scuba and Caspa were...?
But I digress. "Untrue" is fucking lush. Anyone who says otherwise needs their ears syringed and their head examined. Yeah, maybe it's a bit 'samey', in the sense of ever-changing same, but I love that. I love albums that totally fixate on one sound, locked in an obsessive-compulsive cycle. To hell with eclecticism, cos eclecticism is just another word for unfocused, and Burial is very fucking focused (in a soft-focus kinda way). Each track is just one facet of the whole picture, which never actually gets completed. It's more like a scrapbook of watercolour sketches, applying subtly different shades and barely noticeable change of angle. When the finished masterpiece is finally completed, that's when we can all switch off. Mind you, "Archangel" is getting dangerously close to nailing it. Maybe the albums dips a bit in the middle, but so what? I can think of plenty of great albums that sag in places. Were the vocal samples a good idea? Definitely. They bring the deeply emotional music into sharper focus. I'm enjoying "Untrue" even more than the first album. It's basically a bunch of standard R'n'B singers (plucked from who-knows-where?) but set within the music, caked in crusty layers of sonic dust, they sound so fucking sad and yearning, literally like lost spirits caught on tape in a haunted tenement block. The vocals on "Near Dark" have a particularly spectral quality about them. It's like when you place two mirrors together at right-angles and view an infinite number of reflections of yourself. Those vocals sound like they're trapped somewhere down the line, past the twentieth reflection, where the image starts to get blurred and tinged with a green hew, and they're creeping me out.
But will "Untrue" become the coffee table/TV advert muzak of 2008 as some suggest? It's possible, I suppose. And maybe I'll grow to hate it as much as I did Air's "Moon Safari" (which I fucking adored when it first came out). Maybe Burial will join Moby, Royksopp, Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin on heavy rotation on the telly. If Nick Drake can sell sinus decongestant and Suicide's demo tapes can sell Tia Maria, then I see no reason why Burial can't sell panty-liners. Art and commerce aren't always easy bedfellows, but Richard D. James made a shitload from licencing his music and I wouldn't blame Burial if he did the same. I probably would too. But whatever the future holds, right now, this minute, I can't stop listening to this utterly bewitching album.