For the uninitiated, the inimitable Burial is something of a hallowed name in certain circles. His first two albums Burial and Untrue, released on Hyperdub in 2006 and 2007, marked him out as the forefather of a new sound. Combining elements of garage, R&B and dub and imbuing them with his own melancholic ambience, he created a sound which perfectly reflected modern suburbia. Unsurprisingly, he crafted these haunting soundscapes amidst the towering concrete of Croydon.
Whilst seeing his sound gain prominence, and spawn many imitators, Burial, real name William Bevan, has released a handful of new tracks, but never the much desired third LP. Following on from recent collaborations with Four Tet and Massive Attack, the Kindred EP is his follow-up solo effort to last year’s Street Halo.
While it may only be three songs deep, the first thing that strikes you about Kindred is the length of each track. Both the title track and closer ‘Ashtray Wasp’ clock in at around the twelve minute mark, whilst ‘Loner’ reaches seven and a half. This symphonic scale, something which he utilised in his Massive Attack remixes, gives Bevan the scope to intricately explore the layers of each piece. His sense of build and ability to create a richly textured canvas makes sure that no space is wasted. Twelve minutes is a long time for a single song to hold your attention, but it feels as if every second has earned its right to be here and you find yourself wishing that each track would keep going for that little bit longer.
The sounds are unmistakeably Burial. Disembodied vocals echo around minor key synth stabs, whilst needle crackle provides a haunting ambience and shuffling drums try to shepherd everything along together. There are new aspects here, however, which show that even the master is learning and evolving. The vocal melodies take on a new level, at times rising above the urban mire of the processed drums. In ‘Loner’, the broken house rhythm suddenly gives way to a short coda of an ethereal voice: “When you’re alone/ hold on”, it offers, before being hauled back into dark ambient noise.
At times, especially on the closing track, it feels as if the song is being assembled before you. Vocals are introduced and discarded, passages are built up and then brought down in a flurry of noise while the foundations of new ones appear. One criticism which could perhaps be levelled at the final track is that the stop-start nature of its last half prevents it from finishing quite as strongly as the previous two.
Still, when it fades to a close, the first thing you do is press play again. There is so much on offer here that you simply can’t take it all in on first listen. This is a wonderfully crafted trio of songs which show real musicianship at work in a field where many often mistake brute force for strength.