The landscape of London has had its fair share of bards, poets and punks. The city has been eulogised and damned by musicians as varied as The Clash, The Kinks, Patrick Wolf and even those arch Mancunians The Smiths.
To that list you can now add the name of Burial. The south London dubstep producer has released a collection of songs that has the city’s dirty DNA etched into its grooves. The anonymous back bedroom genius has followed his ground breaking debut with a huge leap forward.
Untrue is not the streaked neon and glitter bomb buzz of the West End in the early hours. Nor is it the melancholy romantic sweep of city possibilities so beloved of outsiders. No, Burial has soundtracked the London night out beyond tube lines, the shadowy hinterlands of South London Boroughs. The stuttered shops, graffitied underpasses, the smashed bus shelters and abandoned cars of the endless suburbs. You feel as if you are wandering dazed through the early hours of a Sunday morning. Half-heard mobile phone conversations, reverberations of bass bins in passing cars, snatches of dance music drifting in the air. The lonely sound of a distant tower block party heard coming up through the piss stained lift from six floors below.
This record could not have been conceived or composed anywhere else but in London, 2007. Untrue is a dark record, a refraction of night time, a hazy, hypnotic mosaic of voices, beats, sub-bass and clouds of radio static. It’s Iain Sinclair or Peter Ackroyd’s psycho geography of London’s hidden corners ripped from the page and made flesh. The sound of a ghostly city floating, the past remixed and remodelled into the near future.
The songs unfurl like a blissfully slow comedown, those hours spent waiting for the restless chemical-fuelled dawn. Ethereal vocal hooks, drizzle, crackle, submerged beats swimming to the surface of your dreams. You feel immersed in half-remembered clips of the tunes you heard on the dancefloor, Like the night is continually rewinding then jumping forward, twisting time, bending space.
Never has such a prosaic title as In McDonalds been attached to such a beautiful piece of music. The grandeur is conjured from the briefest whispers of electronic vapour, via slowly evolving string pads and a heavily treated, time-stretched vocal that melts away into thin air. The title track’s restless snare-driven rhythm is welded to a soulful vocal sample and a swarming bass frequency that seeps through the mix like an impending headache.
On the nightmarish Homeless the samples, beats and synths collide head-on before the track is stripped back to a haunted twisted vocal, warped bass and the distant sound of gunfire. A weary, weak vocal sample intones “no future” over and over on the majestic Endorphin. The vocal rises and falls away like a voice heard through a broken radio, infusing the music with a sense of dread and unease.
Untrue is complex, stark, tender, blurred and breathtaking. Burial has managed the impossible and improved on his faultless debut. Buy this record, for diverse is the pleasure it will bring.