Tunes 2011-2019


In hindsight, it feels a bit weird that Burial’s first big wave of genre-codifying, imitation-ready classics came and went over a span of just two and a half years, from the South London Boroughs EP through the release of his second LP Untrue — and then, for years, a deliberate silence that followed the revelation of his real-life identity (turns out he wasn’t Aphex Twin incognito, go figure — just a dude who went to high school with Four Tet). Whatever epiphany or perspective shift brought him back into the lab for a new run of solo singles and EPs would then be borne out in the context of an artist figuring out how to escape his own parameters, to isolate anything in his music that might be too obviously his and excise it ruthlessly. Tunes 2011 to 2019 does something better than serving as a de facto comp-as-overview, though. It could’ve just rolled out a chronological succession of tracks spanning from 2011’s deeply emotive, house-orbiting Street Halo EP to 2019’s striking post-garage/doom-ambient split “Claustro” / “State Forest” and charting it as a stylistic progression. Instead, the sequencing is optimized to show off a more dynamic, vibe-heavy lineage of the ways he departed from his early rain-on-concrete 2-step melancholia. And he has myriad points of departure, from the wholly beatless yet still deeply tactile “State Forest” (given a challenging opening-track place of prominence) to the rangier, more mercurial emotional scope of his Kindred and Rival Dealer EPs that take up the bulk of the album’s aching heart. (The mid-comp stretch that encompasses every track from those EPs, which runs from the gauzy, shamelessly anthemic synthpop-distorting “Hiders” through the shockingly aggro near-industrial throb of “Rival Dealer” to the evocatively decaying anguished-diva house of “Ashtray Wasp,” is possibly the most revelatory succession of songs in his entire catalogue.) It’s as though he’d traded the ambiguity of his real-world facelessness for an increasingly hard-to-pinpoint series of new sonic identities — fair enough, he had to stay unrecognizable somehow.

Nate Patrin