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New Music: Burial

By Troy Hasselman, December 11 2019 —

With final’s season approaching, the demand for beats to study and chill to is at it’s semi-annual peak. Thoughtfully, Burial, the enigmatic London-based electronic musician has compiled his releases from numerous EP’s across this decade in the sprawling Tunes 2011 to 2019 compilation. This release compiles the numerous EP’s that Burial has released on the Hyperdub label over the last decade and marks the closest thing he has to a full-length release since 2007’s landmark release Untrue.

The two-and-a-half-hour long compilation captures the numerous musical modes that Burial has occupied through the stark, isolated soundscapes he has released over the last decade. This starkness is only added to by the mystique surrounding Burial, he famously does few interviews and the only official photo of him is a grainy selfie that he released online in 2014. The tracks here all stretch over five-minutes, and some over the ten-minute mark, and speak to Burial’s unique talent as a producer to make such carefully crafted and composed electronic music that can simultaneously be so suffocating and enthralling. His music takes on an almost architectural quality with his soundscapes equating the feeling of being lost in a brutalist building with the lights turned out.

The release follows a backwards chronological order by opening with this past summer’s release, the ambient, drumless “State Forest” which tracks a calming, dark shadow over the album with this mood never really lifting for the releases entire two-and-a-half hour running time. Burial makes nocturnal music and this album’s songs exist in a noirish universe. The compilation shows Burial’s changes as an artist over this past decade with the first three tracks containing no drums at all, until the downtempo house of the tracks from 2016’s Young Death/Nightmarket EP. This shifts into the lush, beautiful tracks of 2013’s Rival Dealer EP that mark some of the most affecting usage of vocal samples of this decade. These etch into the more paranoid, drum-driven work of his early 2010’s EP’s. This compilation shows Burial’s stylistic changes while operating in his own singular lane. 
Tunes 2011 to 2019 is a fascinating, massive look at the work of an artist who has communicated more while saying so little than any other musician this decade. While Burial may himself stay in the shadows, his music occupies these shadows just as well, and this release shows the mastery he has over making such subtle, dark music.

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