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I'm a city-dweller at heart. I do moan about noise, pollution and overcrowding, but it takes great music to really make me appreciate the beauty of those peculiar human colonies. In-ear headphones on a tube train might isolate me in a world of my own, but music such as London producer Burial's first two albums still makes me feel like I belong among the lights and bustle. His fractured, twitchy beats, ambient sweep and rumbling bass grew from a genre called "dubstep". I cheerfully admit that I didn't have a clue what that was before encountering Burial. Variants upon variants of genres and sub-genres of electronic music have passed me by, but here's one I could really get absorbed in. To me it seems to be descended from the sort of ambient that Future Sound of London were doing in the early 90s with "Lifeforms" (so has the Current Sound now arrived?) and the darker side of trip-hop - imagine Massive Attack's "Mezzanine" with an extra paranoia injection. "Untrue"'s original touch is its vocals, created from pasting and processing samples of female voices (almost ransom-demand style) into little floaty melodies that just sound right. But don't listen too closely, these are best heard semi-subconsciously, as a fleeting impression of urban life. There's so much else going on, deftly intricate beats which pull you along without being in-your-face, a crowd of little ambient shadows, all seen through a glass of reverb. All at its best on "Etched Headplate", whose haphazardly-pasted but heartbreaking tune typifies this vital album.
September 14, 2008
See blog entry: Mercury Prize (17 Sep, 2008)