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By Tom Bell
Like the figures of its track titles, Burial’s latest ‘single’ is anti-authoritarian, defying the lazy journalistic classification that makes writing reviews easier. From the outside, it fits the 12” single format quite neatly. The tracks total around 25 minutes, but that’s not too outrageous. Even once you get into it, there are beats here which are closer to a techno stride than Burial’s usual melancholy limp. But you would struggle to find a club esoteric enough to play these latest pieces.
Like Kindred’s ‘Ashtray Wasp,’ it comes across more like a pair of micro-EPs, or even an unusually cohesive album sampler (cue excited speculation), with the beats sputtering out and reappearing mutated or entirely new. Both tracks have a broadly tripartite structure, and while the openings differ markedly, both middle sections reveal a fresh, beguiling playfulness, and the climaxes twist his conventional sound into a heady, menacing wildfire.
‘Truant’ fizzles with the faltering aggression and oppressive indifference of an errant schoolboy. Smudges of bass underline minimal percussion and key-jangle atmospherics, resolving with intent into a threatening groove which recalls recent collaborators Massive Attack during the Mezzanine era. But while the collaborative projects of late have felt unfocused, comprised of disparate parts, the change here is more of a subtle inflection. After a pleasant excursion through lush, pumping chords it turns, cycling through more familiar sequences with dizzying rapidity and a dose of grit, including an eerie self-reference to début album track ‘Wounder’.
But the high point comes in ‘Rough Sleeper’, where the producer locks into a childlike riff evocative of contented nostalgia amidst some dreamy ambience. It hangs, before descending gradually through increasing audio dirt and ending with a jerk. The sheer versatility and command of mood make this second offering some of the year’s best music. If this is indicative of a darker, more jagged new album, I can’t wait.