Like much great dance music, Burial’s 2007 opus recalls fetishised pop platitude and recontextualises it as divinely-ordained gospel. The metaphor of dance floor as place of worship, of rave as communal confession and expiation, has been worn and laboured for decades. But when ‘Endorphin’ reaches its zenith, takes a breath and sighs apotheosis, I cannot countenance that Burial isn’t a true believer. Arms raised towards heaven at the pulpit.
And yet, this is all an inward procession. ‘Untrue’ cannot work in a club or a party. Burial wears his influences on his sleeve, samples popular R&B, and yet creates something unheard that will shake the consciousness of a certain constitution. It is enveloping, a hall of mirrors distorting your personal reality. A cacophony of faint voices and half-heard sounds, chiming swansong of dying cells the morning after, a frequency you will never hear again. It is a bittersweet epilogue, solitary reflection of the extroverted night, or of mild existential crisis walking head down, hood up, hands in pockets, traipsing in the rain through streets smeared with vestiges of human decay.
‘Shell of Light’ for instance is startlingly simple, the same bar of shuffling lo-fi beat and three chords repeated again and again, visited by fleeting company, faces just passing through, somehow capturing the isolated existence in abstract form. The coda is a shimmering, crystalline conception of hope followed by uncertain approximation of false dawn. Nothing can be held in your hands for long . . .
Distant and withdrawn ambient pieces fade in and out of murky UK garage tributes, delicately brushing the temporal lobe which pangs for those nights with fellow young vagrants spent giddy at what passed for dance music in a sleepy town by the Wolds, hefted this way and that by mobs of seething tumescence not to be sated, heart pounding for home to wind down transfixed by 50s B-flicks. Burial folds the mind’s perception of time and scores these scenes, invigorating them with a depth of feeling that might only be there in retrospect.
Contained within 50 minutes is a continual dissolution and subjective reformation of ego and identity in the eye of the beholder. There have been times in my life where listening too long felt violating, reaching an uncomfortable degree of intimacy, dredging depths best left dormant. This record is one of a handful that I can venture to say has saved my life and now affirms life with each and every listen. It is among my most cherished artifacts of this corporeal plane and will remain deeply-rooted in those hallowed corners of my very being while I still draw breath.
-By Alex Boyd