Sistine Chapel of Dub
Burial's Kindred Keeps Him Ahead of the Future
Burial's samples often come from the trashiest parts of pop culture. The second track, "Loner," from Burial's EP Kindred opens with a sample of a desperate/nervous/terrified man saying: "There's something out there." It sounds like John Leguizamo in Brad Anderson's terrible horror movie Vanishing on 7th Street. How I wish that "Loner" instead opened with a man saying (not fearfully but wondrously): "There's something up there." Why would this small change make a big difference? Because Kindred is Burial's most celestial (and as a consequence, theological) work. Containing just three tracks, the first and third of which are 11 minutes long ("Loner" is seven minutes), Kindred is the Sistine Chapel of dub.
In case you are among the unfortunate few who do not know a thing about this Burial character, his real names is William Bevan, his city is London, his music is often categorized as dubstep, and his fame began on April 4, 2006, when a mix by his mentor and label owner Kode9 was broadcast on Mary Anne Hobbs's BBC radio show Breeze- block. The mix opened with lots of scratchy sounds, hisses, electrical discharges, echoes of damned Rasta men, and then, when the confusion cleared, the mix broke into a beat that sounded like a train racing across a ghostly city. The train (the beat) was real; the world it traversed was not. After two minutes of this rattling, tapping, clanking momentum, the mix rose up to the mesosphere (the region where meteorites vaporize) with an ambient tune that looped the fifth track on Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks with the sound of a mourning angel. The self-titled album that Burial released in 2006 (his first masterpiece) is like the train section of the Breezeblock mix, and Kindred (his second masterpiece) is like the ambient, celestial part.
Another important thing about this new work: It can't be chopped up or mixed. You have to listen to it as a whole. The debut album and its follow-up, Untrue, were successfully and meaningfully mixed; indeed, I sometimes come close to feeling that the Breezeblock mix of the debut is actually better than the album itself. Kindred is narratological: It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you listen to only one of its parts (the fiery middle of "Kindred," the star-angels at the end of "Loner," the swirling and heavenly melodies that open "Ashtray Wasp"), you will not see the greatness of the work, you will not see why Burial is still the future of music.