Friday, February 17, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Burial - Kindred EP

By Steve Jones.

At this point, I don't think I need to tell many people that Burial's new EP is really good and it would behoove any person's music listening habits to hear it.  If you want a recommendation, there it is.

What interests me about Kindred is the question of why I like it so much.  I'm sure this is slightly blasphemous to admit in a Burial review, but I'm not a raving fan of Untrue.  I like it, and I can appreciate it on a detached, impersonal level, but it's never been an album I've ever found myself just dying to hear again.  Its atmosphere is wonderfully bleak, but it is a rare thing when atmosphere alone makes me love an album.  At heart, I'm just a pop harlot looking for a catchy melody with intricate arrangements that I can shake my ass to.

However, that's a large part of why I loved Burial's collaboration last year with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, which gave us the "Ego / Mirror" split.  First of all, Thom Yorke's voice can be placed over anything, and I am pretty much guaranteed to enjoy it.  But Four Tet's contribution was equally important and seemed to ground Burial a bit..  The tracks were still heavily atmospheric, but the composition was less ethereal, more immediate, and more engaging to my ears.

Burial may be all by his lonesome again on Kindred, but he has continued this forward motion into the realm of electronic music I most enjoy: the realm of dangerous, complex, and ever-evolving 10+ minute sonic adventures.  The identifiably ghostly "Burial sound" is still here, but now it is composed around stronger melodies and song progression.  Of course, there had better be some good song structures and upheavals of those structures when you have a 3-song EP with two tracks pushing 12 minutes, and Kindred does not disappoint.  Its songs don't pack in as many ideas as, say, a Max Tundra song, but Burial is certainly pushing his boundaries with a track like "Ashtray Wasp," and it's exciting to hear.

(Side note: pretty much this entire EP reminds me of the soundtrack for the Metroid Prime series.  I'm not implying any kind of connection between the two (aside from both competently simulating the feeling of being lost and alone on a harsh and strange alien planet), but that is where my mind has been going.)

Despite my lukewarmness towards Burial's past work, I have always admired his ability to make his electronic music sound so organic.  Even though his compositional choices often evoke images which are dark, lonely and cold, he retains this warmth of sound which always takes my ears back to the early days of popular electronic music, when it was just a bunch of weird people experimenting with Moogs.  It is quite masterful how vinyl crackling, thin percussion, distantly warped voices, piano, street samples, spooky synths, and many more sounds are pieced together throughout the EP.

I think my favorite parts of Kindred are the rapidly descending synth patterns which are found in "Loner" and "Ashtray Wasp."  They exude a sense of urgency and brightness which sounds completely out of place surrounded by every other sound in the mix, but that is precisely what makes them stand out.  I would never have expected to hear them in any of Burial's previous work, and that's why I love them.

In fact, it is safe to say I am in love with the Kindred EP as a whole.  It is the sign of an artist who is progressing his sound without forgetting his sound, and that is one of the best things an artist can do, especially one such as Burial, who has such a distinctive style and voice.  This move towards more experimental, more melodic, and even more danceable forms of music might disappoint some fans mired in the Untrue sound.  For somebody like me, however, Kindred is an exciting introduction to an incarnation of Burial I look forward to following down whatever dark alley of music he chooses to explore next.

Score: Decent 8

(Steve Jones' personal opinion on Untrue is likely very wrong. Feel free to scold him about it on Twitter.)

1 comment:

  1. You're more qualified to write about Burial than I ever will be. I generally loathe music like this. Don't tell anyone I said this, but I didn't HATE this EP.