Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Premature Burial: Burial the Pallbearer vs Burial the Innovator

46 comments:

  1. EXCELLENT post.Thanks for the excess of listening and connecting here.

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  2. Out to Burial, Whistler and 90s London.

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  3. Damn you!

    I wanted to connect Burial and Whistler's Nocturne in a post ages ago, but lost track and couldnt quite find my angle.

    As always, an excellent post.

    Oh, thanks for linking me too.
    Daniel

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  4. Excellent post!! Your description and interpretation of Burial's techniques and artistic abilities made me fall even deeper in love with his music! When you mentioned that his melody reaches parts of you that you never knew existed, that is exactly how i felt!! Thank you! and thank you BURIAL!!!! He is from the future! :)

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  5. ... would you mind if I translated this to spanish for my own blog? Of course this would go credited to you, as the author, with a link to your own blog. Cheers!

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  6. Thanks, go for it! Glad to hear Burial even has sympathisers in such sunny climes.

    On Twitter this afternoon Daniel Trilling found an excellent poem by Thomas Hardy that matches the Burial listening experience:

    http://999poems.blogspot.com/2009/04/966-beyond-last-lamp-by-thomas-hardy.html

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  7. As a huge fan of "Burial the Percussionist" I was initially a tiny bit disappointed in "Fostercare". Then it crept up on me, and you really nailed it here, it's the Poet coming to the fore.

    A lot of food for thought here, as always. Excellent stuff, thank you.

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  8. wow - thank you for this. some wonderful passages and thoughts that only serve to enhance, not detract from or demystify. huge respect.

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  9. This post puts much of the sensations I feel while listening to Burial in to words; it's somewhat uncanny how you've managed to do it here. Nonetheless, I deeply enjoyed reading, listening, taking mental notes and being completely enveloped all over again by the magic of Burial. The rain, and the very powerful architecture have always been key elements for me and are what drew me to Burial's craft in the beginning. It's lovely and reassuring to learn that this sensibility is shared and validated in text. The paintings included here almost directly translate the sheer emotional impact of the music into images I've, until now, only seen with my eyes shut and headphones at full blast. I needed this... so much.

    Amazing.

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  10. hmmmm...you lost me on this one. I loved ur Wonky ideas and insights but I think you are playing Burial up to be a modern musical electronic composer 'Genius' when I honestly believe he is so very accidentally where he is cos of people he knows and inventing a sound, as good as it is, i agree, which came along as a much welcome soothing undercurrent for the Big Ballsy and Dark Bass tunes of the Steppas that looked to him to somehow round out the one dimensional nature that was all too prelevant at the time. Hyperdubs vertable saviour from disappearing into its own navel.
    You mention people questioning whether the unquantised nature of the tracks was a mistake? No, i dont believe so either, but neither is it the awesome spectacle you proclaim it to be. it just is.
    I mean, whats so bloody amazing about that?
    Burial is a boderline fluke, and time will tell while the rest of his catalogue trys hard to out do UNTRUE, which so far none of it has.

    >Keep up the great work
    PEACE

    _strunkdts_

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  11. hey strunkdts, cheers. I didn't use the word 'genius' but I see what you're getting at (maybe your using that word had something to do with that cultural-baggage-handling term 'composer' - my next post will look into that sorta thing). I feel that Burial makes such inventive and effective use of unquantisation as an entrenched aspect of form and expression that it amounts to something quite groundbreaking, but the unquantisation is only one factor in his overall importance. As you say, time will tell.

    As far as I know 'Fostercare' is the only non-remix, non-collaborative music Burial's released since Untrue (as a holistic work, yeah, it's probably the strongest release), and I think that track's pretty amazing, it competes.

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  12. Being a musician myself and feeling out everything I can out of music in any situation, what you said about Burial and the layering, the precision and vision of his compositions is pretty much spot on. Your "WONKY" post was brilliant as well.

    Keep it going, I always love an in-depth read into a musical journey. BIG-UPS

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  13. Wow, I liked Burial before but you've created a new kind of love I have for him now. Thanks for pointing out so many of the technical musical aspects that someone like me who is uneducated in the subject can understand and appreciate.

    I've heard Fostercare before, but the way you pointed out the 'vocal science' of it (combined with a better understanding of the previous tracks) made me actually short of breath while listening to it.

    Normally I would dismiss an article of this length as a "tl;dr," but I'm so glad I sat down and read this whole thing. It enabled me to experience such an emotion through his music that I haven't experienced before.

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  14. you mentioned that in Foster Care
    'The second phrase (the response) lines up harmonically with the bass, which is going back and forth between the tonic (C sharp, home) and the foreboding submediant (A major)'
    and that
    'Now Burial’s bassline, powerful as it is, is pretty simple, just two notes'

    But i'm pretty sure the bass is three notes, a two bars of C#, followed by one of G#, and one of A.
    Then at the end of the sample you hear it cadence, C#, F and C# ( a plagel cadance?)

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  15. Amazing post. Write more please!

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  16. @Rouge's...sorry man, i reread my post just now and what i really meant was Burials first and self titled is the effort for which he will always strive...thats what i feel anyhow.
    I really like your musings on music and look forward to reading more.
    i cant believe youre as young as you say either! :)
    _strunkdts_

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  17. hey Toby Hamand, thanks for listening so carefully - 's good to know that people aren't simply trusting my musical jibba jabba. You're right of course - while I do aim to simplify things where I can and I do remember hearing three notes, what you quote is an outright mistake and I'll amend it.

    Not thinking I'd go into harmony I wrote the poetry section away from a keyboard and I (gulp) used a flash keyboard to approximate those murky pitches. The C sharp in the melody threw me into thinking in an A feel, curses. In fact throughout, the melody behaves as if the bass was just C sharp and A.

    Now that I listen again I hear it's a bit more complex and wonder if there's maybe a B in the line somewhere. I'm not sure that I'd agree that the end of the eight bars is a plagal cadence (isn't that penultimate chord B major, when the strings come in?). Ah, anyways. But cheers for pointing that out.

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  18. Alastair Jones7 December 2009 15:35

    Interesting, and illuminating. However, in severao thousand words I don't think you managed to capture the essence of Burial in the way that Mary Anne Hobbs did in her review of 'Untrue'...

    I have to say I think it’s the most wonderful mosaic of sound I’ve ever heard in my whole life, it doesn’t even sound like it was made on this Earth, it could be a transmission from a star in a galaxy far far away... and I don’t know about you, but this excites senses deep in my soul that I didn’t even know I had, and it makes me feel like I’m falling in love with music at a completely different and way deeper level… Burial let the curtain fall, the stage is yours. Life and sound will never be the same again…”

    I like the way you've analysed Burial's music, and identified things that I had never noticed before. However, getting caught up in the possible mechanisms/aims/processes of the music, and the individual kicks/loops/samples, can detract from the overall experience. For me, the best way to enjoy Burial is not to assess his merits as a poet/composer/audio architect, but to put in your headphones, and hit the streets. In response to one of the earlier comments, I don't think that the word 'genius' is too strong.

    Anyway, nonetheless a very interesting a post! Certainly helped me get through my monday afternoon.

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  19. Cheers for reading and your thoughts Alastair - the main argument of this post was that if there were a claim to have captured the essence of Burial then it would be a great shame. This post is a quasi-musicological essay in aesthetics, not a review or an attempt to replicate or, as you hint at, to replace the listening experience (and god forbid the latter). What I tried to do, rather than bring Burial into the harsh light of the laboratory for close general ('over'-)analysis, was reveal some facets of the music that may have previously been hidden for some people, to suggest some new paths for listening.

    But yeah, hit the streets with headphones, definitely.

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  20. what a waste of words
    sh*t up and listen to the music

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  21. Listening is what I have been doing - lots of it, carefully, it's where I got these words from. They're here so that others might feel encouraged to listen similarly carefully, and they don't cost anybody anything.

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  22. very interesting and well written, write something about joy orbison?

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  23. Excellent read! Can't get enough of Burial, you have given me a further insight into his genius.

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  24. By far the most insightful artical/blog post on Burial. Burial is the wrecking ball music needs right now.

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  25. .......And is surely paving the way for more innovative producers coming through, lets not ignore the lesser known new talent either. Music is in a state of flux right now and perhaps we have some of the most interesting material is yet to come. The state of music is now equivalent to the heady DIY aesthetic of punk, where people who haven't had the opportunity to use large studios and expensive equipment can now do things on a much cheaper budget with professional results.
    Win/win situation then?

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  26. Hope so RL! Burial is one of the first to really demonstrate the potential of this neo-Punk / Second DIY Revolution you talk about (probably the main contributor to such a revolution is the rise of music-producing software), both with his innovation and the sophistication he puts on top of that.

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  27. the first album is a billion trillion times better than the second.

    that's the only point i have to make.

    untrue. :)

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  28. The "ghosts of rave" thing is not necessarily the hopeless, beholden-to-the-past thing that many of the Cultural Entropy boohoo-we're-all-doomed it's-not-like-it-was-in-my-day gang would have it be...

    It reminds me of the line from One Dove, at the height of rave, in the ultimate comedown song 'White Love': "and when it is dark / there are ghosts / that give me hope".

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  29. In reading your posts I often feel like you're "connection-hunting," and this one is no exception. Still, I personally love the fact that other people are thinking a lot about these things.

    My favourite part about this post is that, while I often consider Burial a sort of musical guilty pleasure, you give him his due regardless of his non-"serious" background. Your words about the self-awareness of his quantization choices hit the nail on the head; the poetic function (axis of selection meeting the axis of combination) doesn't rely on a technical stylistic awareness, but rather a set of good ears and good taste.

    I look forward to the next one.
    -Brian park

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  30. PS. RL, I love that musical innovation beyond guitar feedback is available to so many more people nowadays; but, I can't help worrying about focusing on new producers simply for their newness.

    There will be thousands of new aesthetic ways to present music in the next few years, but will we simply grow so fixated on newness of sonic qualities that we let great songwriting fall by the wayside?

    I just heard Charlotte Dada's version of Don't Let Me Down, with polyrhythmic African bells all over the place, and it is still a beautiful song, just with different wrapping. I hope we haven't become more interested in the wrapping than the gift.

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  31. im pretty sure the sample at the start of 'Fostercare' is taken from Kaija Saariaho's 'jardin secret 1' - to be found on the release 'computer music currents 5'

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  32. Im surprised that he doesn't make more of this sample, being content to use it as a touch of colour. Although I suppose its three clear repetitions do create very audible landmarks, defining the form to some extent. On second hearing i think there are also delayed/reverbed/filtered fragments of it that add to the burial-esc indistinct and shifting background texture, that gives the music so much of its character. I am a bit disappointed that he hasn't used it as a melodic/harmonic/rhythmic fragment as with many of the other samples he uses. The track is still ace though.

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  33. p.s i thoroughly enjoyed your article...a great way to approach Burial's work.

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  34. p.p.s I wonder whether Burial is really musically 'paving the way', or rather perfecting and concentrating those forms already there, perhaps tending towards the end of a genre(s)? Maybe they are the same thing though...he is definitely creating a precedent for a fresh sense of depth in dance/electronic (or whatever) music that should allow other like-minded artists to flourish. Whether there is the talent to capitalize on this remains to be seen...i hope there is.

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  35. p.p.p.s Scrub the word genre...that word creates more problems than it solves, as i think your article expresses. Burial perfects the art of allusion perhaps, one perspective/definition is never sufficient...ill shut up now.

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  36. More insightful writing I have never seen on a blog. Well done friend. There is a lot more to Burial than I give him credit for. Thank you.

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  37. Awesome post. just been recommended this blog and loving the insights. I've just been reviewing call and response and its use in memorable music on music production blog i co-write - lost in musik. http://www.lostinmusik.net/?p=1347

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  38. This was amazing. Since my very first time hearing Burial, played one evening in Trevor Nelson's show during a personally-nightmarish December 2007, I'd felt that my notion of what music could be had changed forever. Now, just over four years later, I've had that feeling acknowledged in a very real sense by your in depth analysis. Analysis I'm far too musically ignorant to have understood the jargon of, but still.

    And it only took me two years to stumble upon it. All hail Reddit.

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  39. Your analysis is spot on and quite chilling. Greatly appreciate it

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  40. Fabulous essay

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  41. This is the most astounding blog post I've come across in months. Thanks for the in-depth venture into the world of Burial. I've been looking for such review for a long time. Cheers.

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  42. do you feel any different in these opinions (better/worse) since the release of newer work? or maybe more poignantly, do you believe these claims still apply (more/less) in the artist's newer works?

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  43. I think my opinions about what I wrote about remain the same, even after hearing the new material. Burial has expanded a bit - longer tracks, darker tracks, more narrative-type tracks, and even dancier tracks, but I think the underlying aesthetic is the same. But give it another 4 years and who knows? I'm sure one day I'll be writing about him again, and will need to update!

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  44. Just commenting to say that I always knew there was something about Burial I just wasn't getting, but I didn't want to dismiss him (or her) as an artist. After reading this article, though, my aesthetic appreciation has been greatly enhanced, so much so that I decided to order Untrue on vinyl last night.

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