Seemingly keen to avoid ‘end of year’ lists, William Bevan aka Burial released the Truant/Rough Sleeper EP mid-December in 2012. Almost exactly 12 months later he promptly released Rival Dealer, a three-track 12” spanning almost half an hour.
The title track opens in familiar Burial territory, with signature vinyl crackle/rain atmospherics and an androgynous RnB vocal snippet. Immediately, Bevan introduces a gently glowing string section and a rapid breakbeat that sounds anything but what we’ve recently come to expect from the producer. Five minutes in, this dissipates into a rumbling bassline and a police siren. Again, the scene is almost instantly silenced and replaced by a Dillinja-esque drum and bass segment, albeit with a more typical shuffling rhythm. Paradoxically, the most rave-y morsel of Burial’s career is accompanied by the brash shout “you know my mother—-ing style”. With three minutes remaining, the track opens its final chapter. The music diminishes, and slowly progressing chords and a flute pervade the sparseness. The occasional crackle and hiss remind us who we’re listening to, before concluding with a monologue involving seeing “an angel come down to us”.
Throughout the EP, there is a vocal theme of self-acceptance and sexuality. Phrases crop up amidst the sonic landscapes “…about sexuality. About showing a person who you are” and the prevalent phrase “this is who I am”, leading to some speculation that the recurring sentiment could be Burial’s own. Surrounding the release, he sent Radio 6Music DJ Mary Anne Hobbs a text saying he aimed to create “anti-bullying tunes that could maybe help someone to believe in themselves… an angel’s spell to protect them against the unkind people, the dark times, and the self-doubts.”
Second track, ‘Hiders’ transitions from the jerky, discordant tempo-switches of ‘Rival Dealer’ to a warm, assuring soundscape. ‘Hiders’ is arguably the poppiest material Burial has released, indeed it is one of the only tracks that can be regarded as songs. The track begins where ‘Rival Dealer’ left off, and at its halfway point, reaches climax announcing “you don’t have to be alone” over drums that sound like they’ve been borrowed from M83 or Kavinsky, rather than the two-step rhythms of Burial’s own catalogue.
Final track, ‘Come Down To Us’ induces an atmosphere somewhere between the previous two. The opening segment revolves around a slow RnB beat and sitar, producing a cold sense of optimism. Keeping true to the EP, the elements are erased and reintroduced around clicks, hisses and weaving vocals, “come down to us” intertwined with “don’t be afraid”. A record scratch presents the next movement, and a slow garage beat plays around swelling chords for the peak of the track. Again, Burial tells us via samples not to “give up”, that we are “not alone”. The record is concluded by a lengthy sample from transgender film director Lana Wachowski, with one final emphasis on the meaning of the EP.
The EP weaves a tale from confusion and discomfort to a much more positive scenario, musically and lyrically. Rival Dealer is the finished picture to the photo negatives of Kindred and Truant/Rough Sleeper, which occasionally felt more like demos than perfected pieces. With this work, Burial has once again thrown the door open creatively, leaving us to wonder what he’ll release next.
Rival Dealer was released on December 11th 2013.