BURIAL: UNTRUE (2007)
1) Untitled; 2) Archangel; 3) Near Dark; 4) Ghost Hardware; 5) Endorphin; 6) In McDonalds; 7) Untrue; 8) Shell Of Light; 9) Dog Shelter; 10) Homeless; 11) UK; 12) Raver.
Supposedly, the only way I can say something vaguely interesting about Untrue that has not already been said by the ranters and ravers — and there have been quite a few of them around 2007, with Burial's second album predictably making even more of a splash than the first one, since this one was already expected — is by keeping up those visual interpretations. Naturally, Untrue is a logical sequel to Burial, conceived and executed in similar ways, built on similar ideas, and producing similar reactions. But if there are at least a few departures, how does that agree with the impression of a devastated post-World War III planet?
Well, the one thing that is different is that Untrue is a little busier. Its compositions may feature two samples instead of one, or three instead of two. Or there might be one or two extra layers of electronics. Most interestingly, there is a heavy increase in vocal samples of R&B artists — compared to Burial, almost every composition is populated with them, and now Aaliyah, Erykah Badu, Amanda Perez, and even Christina Aguilera have joined the roster. Coupled with Burial's dark bass and post-industrial electronics, their vocal loops represent the kinkiest in ironic deconstruction. If I were any of them, I'd probably start campaigning for a ban on sampling now — this is a prime example of «no-fair! use» (as opposed to «unfair»).
On the other hand, there are so many of these vocal bits now that they can no longer be interpreted as the symbolic last remains of human voices on the destroyed (deconstructed?) Earth. Rather, this might be the start of the rebirth cycle — the little ambient melodies that manage to break through the core of the bass frequencies and the vinyl crackle represent the world beginning to slowly get back on its feet (even if you have to use the vocal talents of Ray J. and Beyoncé to achieve the set goals).
In other words, Untrue is not nearly as «creepy» as its predecessor — and, consequently, not nearly as thrilling, at least not for those who have already, like me, formulated their own «rules of the universe according to Burial». It only takes playing the lead-in tracks back-to-back: ʽDistant Lightsʼ with its metallic hum and clanging midsize robots carrying on with their daily tasks, and ʽArchangelʼ, with its pseudo-Mellotron electronic backgrounds and Ray J.'s pleading, high-pitched vocals looped so densely that the whole track begins to resemble a goddamn prayer.
Of course, we're back in the dark on the correspondingly titled ʽNear Darkʼ, but even that track is hyper-populated with vocals that carry out their rotten task of humanizing the robotic beats. ʽGhost Hardwareʼ is a great title, and the interaction between the sampled Aguilera and the electronics is ghostly indeed, but still there is no genuine sense of danger. Darkness, perhaps, but a peaceful, non-threatening — at least, not immediately threatening — kind of darkness. Later on, there will even be moments of majestic darkness: ʽDog Shelterʼ, for instance, completely free of beats and sounding as if it had been stolen out of one of Eno's vaults.
From this point of view, Untrue is a bit of a letdown for me. The combination of dubstep formalities with ye old time industrial and dark ambient stylistics that this guy latched on to was not tremendously unique or innovative, but it was quite a find, certainly much more of a find than you'd expect from one of the several million wannabe electronic wizards dicking around with prepackaged software. Here, it already seems a bit sissied-up and diluted, shedding some of that atmosphere — even if, paradoxically, I suppose that more work must have been invested in Untrue than in its predecessor. But this is just one of those cases where too many ingredients do not exactly spoil the broth, yet somewhat cancel out each other.
Still, a thumbs up, because if my visualisation fails, it's just my problem, right? In most respects, nothing has really changed, and if your perception of this kind of music follows more abstract guidelines, you might not even notice this seeming transition from «dark black» to «dark gray» in this guy's work (to an extent, reflected even on the album sleeves, as I have noticed). In any case, the moods are still there, along with an occasional surprise or two (such as the evil bass swoops on ʽEtched Headplateʼ, grinning at the wimpy R&B samples), and even if the world according to Burial is no longer as thoroughly bleak a place to live in, it is still desolate enough to impress a mind like mine, normally bored to death with this kind of electronic patchwork.
Check "Untrue" (MP3) on Amazon