The Nocturnal Journey of Burial’s new EP

Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson  


The new Burial EP, Young Death / Nightmarket, which “accidentally” made its way onto record store shelves in Toronto this Black Friday is now out for real; marking ten years of Burial, the South-London based lord of UK ambient garage and dubstep (the good kind, not the one sounding like machines making love). Take a listen: it’s a dark journey to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Darkness envelopes this two-track release, as it so often does with Burial, whose signature is a combo of echoic vibrancy and distorted, UK garage percussion.With his 2006 self-titled debut and follow-up Untrue one year later being revolutionary records in UK electronic music, Burial paved the way for artists such as James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Moderat, and The xx. A hooded unknown, Burial remained anonymous until 2008, pushing a broken-record pessimism that still somehow pulled at the heartstrings.

Likewise, on Young Death / Nightmarket, there’s never a feeling of total hopelessness. The mood even lifts at points, a solid rhythm established, and then snatched away as quickly as it arrived. The grainy vocals are left to mingle in the depths of the track, meandering between a-tonal and tonal, never quite settling. ‘Young Death’ ends with the listener well and truly in the familiar Burial-blessed darkness, and the crackling frequencies established as a signature on 2007’s Untrue.

But ‘Nightmarket’ explores that darkness. Sounding like a broken radio left to echo in a deep tunnel, the track teases at an almost trance-like mood: a light at the end, which is promptly extinguished as the melody is broken or undercut by dark pads. This is the more experimental of the two tracks on the new EP, and as ‘Nightmarket’ closes, the light at the end of the tunnel comes into view, a voice utters “come with me”. There’s a trace of something: a siren, a soft pop of what could be gunshots, or crisp autumn leaves under foot. It suggests that this track might have a social message too.

The sound of a warped record, the notes drifting drunkenly in and out of key

But nobody will ever know for sure. Well, until someone overanalyzes his music. Burial is known for easter eggs in his tracks, like last year when someone identified the voice in Rival Dealer (his last proper solo release before Young Death / Nightmarket) to be NASA scientist Melissa Dawson Higgins, taken from an obscure Youtube Youtube interview.

Never quite leaving behind the depth of the “Burial bend” (the sound of a warped record, the notes drifting drunkenly in and out of key) Young Death / Nightmarket is an EP which fits securely within his magnificent canon – which after ten years, is screaming for another full-length album.

But with Burial, nothing is clear, and you’ll never know.