In theory, we know who Burial is. After the release of Untrue, his newfound crossover success prompted a brief glimpse of his identity. His name is Will Bevan and he’s from South London. He stated, “I’m a lowkey person and I just want to make some tunes, nothing else”. His career is scattered sparsely with interviews that make clear his desire to let the music stand for itself. Besides that, our idea of the individual behind a defining sound of the past decade is largely unknown.
Two classic LPs followed by a string of carefully selected 12”’s have developed his sound into something that feels comfortable, but not in a bad way. It’s nothing resembling staleness-the core of his music is like a welcome trip to a familiar place. That place is dark and isolated, but when a sonic journey is needed no one captures that sense of escapism quite like Burial. Progressions in his sound and song structure have given new life to his songs, but he stays grounded in roots much like in his personal life, quietly hovering in the distance.
The release of his latest EP at the end of last year, Rival Dealer, continues the calculated growth of his sound. The extended tracks are here. The fundamentals of his signature sound are here. But something is different. He’s not satisfied to let his music stay muted in the background. For once it sounds like Will Bevan, Burial, or whoever else he’s trying to give a voice too, is finally reaching to be heard. Lead track “Rival Dealer” slams forward with an aggression uncharacteristic to anything Burial’s ever made. The track is cut with samples of self-assurance, sexual identity, and even the bombastic “you know my mothafuckin’ style!” before things break away into a final, briefly tranquil moment of bliss. He’s not tapping your shoulder anymore; it lands like a clean punch in the face.
Beyond the restless opener, “Hiders” is even more of a departure. It builds to a pop-ballad crescendo echoing, “You don’t have to be alone”, as it continues to push into new territory. It’s built on a sound palate so dissimilar to Burial’s discography it almost feels beamed in from a different decade. It’s jarring, but it’s where Rival Dealer finally breaks into optimism. The thirteen-minute “Come Down To Us” grows and recedes in a manner not unlike the title track, only swapping out the combative stomp for a glossy shine.
The final moments of the EP close with a clip of filmmaker Lana Wachowski accepting the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award: “Without examples, without models, I began to believe voices in my head; that I was a freak, that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be loveable. Years later I find the courage to admit that I am transgender and that this does not mean that I am unlovable. So this world that we imagine in this room might be used to gain access to other rooms, to other worlds previously imaginable”.
Over the span of a decade, Burial has created a catalog built for moments of introspection. In a rare statement he said he wanted the EP to serve as “anti-bullying tunes that maybe help someone to believe in themselves, to not be afraid, to not give up”. It’s an uncharacteristically clear statement of intent from the reclusive producer, but it helps shed light on his most divisive work to date. “Tell me I belong”, echoed a voice on Untrue’s classic “Archangel”. It’s been seven years of quiet production since that album released and Rival Dealer is the triumphant statement that everyone-be it mutated voices on earlier records, Will Bevan, or any individual regardless of their identity-deserves to be heard.
4.5 out of 5
You can buy Rival Dealer on Amazon.