Burial - Rival Dealer
Release Date: December 11, 2013
Record Label: Hyperdub
Burial's releases always seem like an event. That's probably because William Bevan, the man behind the beloved electronic music producer Burial, doesn't like to release things with much notice. Late last year, Burial Released Truant/Rough Sleeper out of nowhere, after having already released the behemoth of an EP in Kindred earlier in the year. This year, Bevan has once again hit us with a late year surprise and released Rival Dealer just in time for (almost) every major music publication in the world to regret publishing their end of the year lists so early.
Those new to the electronic genre may be wondering when exactly we're going to be getting a proper follow up to Burial's last full length album Untrue, but Burial himself has proven the potential of the EP in recent years. Each of Burial's EP's following Untrue (Street Halo, Kindred, Truant/Rough Sleeper) all feature work that is just as good as if not better than that found on Untrue. More importantly, Burial's tracks have turned into mini-epics with several spanning beyond the 10-minute mark, crafting 2-step and garage beats that duck and weave between atmospheres and spaces as voices cry from the shadows. This is what has become known as “the Burial formula.” On Rival Dealer, however, noticeable changes are made to this formula. The title track kicks things off with a familiar formula, with ghostly vocal samples and static noise building into a beat that kicks off, and from there things start to feel a little less familiar than they have in the past.
“Rival Dealer” features one of the most uptempo beats of Burial's yet, and the blaring sirens that cry off in the distance are the closest he's gotten to a rave sound since “Street Halo.” Things twist and turn as expected with your longer Burial tunes, and abrupt stops and crackles and pops and hisses and clacks all penetrate through the dense atmosphere laid on by the vocal sample and drum beat. Once things slow down and all that's left is a foggy synth and a sound clip of a voice muttering the name of the last track (“Come down to us”), things lead right into “Hiders,” one of the most divisive Burial songs yet. It's the closest thing to a happy song that Burial has released, and the synth-pop beat that breaks out over two minutes in is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows. It's a massive deviation from the Burial sound, but it proves that he's an artist who is willing to break down the boundaries of a sound that he himself built up.
Ultimately, “Hiders” is meant to function as a buffer track between the two longer pieces here, and the final track “Come Down To Us” caps off the EP with another one of the most experimental Burial songs yet. Things start off slow and build into a beat that has a very heavy hip-hop/R&B influence, a completely new territory for Burial. As always, though, a lot of the Burial trademarks appear here, with your usual chopped vocal samples and shimmering synths and disruptions in the audio to give his songs an unmatched thickness and distinction that sets him apart. The song also builds up and strips down and builds up and is constantly in a state of forward motion, even if the last musical passage sounds something like jumping off of a waterfall into pure spring water.
Once that passage ends though, there's total silence before one of the most important pieces of the Rival Dealer puzzle reveals itself. To close out the EP, Burial uses a clip of transgender director Lana Wachasowki's speech from the 2012 Human Rights Campaign gala to really get across the message of the release. Throughout the rest of the EP there are a lot of themes that pop up; the first words uttered on the title track are “This is who I am” and the main vocal sample promises “I'm gonna love you more than anyone,” another clip states “It's about sexuality, it's about showing a person who you are—to me, this is who I'm about,” and at the beginning of “Come Down To Us” a scared voice cries out “Excuse me, I'm lost.” But it's the last segment from Wachowski's speech that really resonates at the end: “Without models, without examples, I began to believe voices in my head, that I was a freak, that I am broken, that I will never be loveable. Years later, I find the courage to admit that I am transgendered, and this does not mean that I am unlovable.”
It's easy to speculate if any of this has personal significance to William Bevan himself. Perhaps its his form of coming out, or perhaps its just his way of putting himself behind a cause he believes in. Its unlikely that anyone will ever know for sure. One thing is clear though: Rival Dealer has a very simple message at its core, one that we're all taught but one that many of us forget from time to time. That message is to love yourself. Rival Dealer explores the struggles with and the importance of self-acceptance. We all get down on ourselves, but at the end of the day, you are who you are and its okay to be proud of it. Bevan himself said it best in his message about the EP: “I wanted the tunes to be anti-bullying tunes that could maybe help someone to believe in themselves, to not be afraid, and to not give up, and to know that someone out there cares and is looking out for them.”
Great review! This was an incredibly nice surprise to wake up to. Burial is by far my favourite electronic artist. Come Down To Us I think is now my second favourite track from him, my first is still Fostercare.
His most underwhelming release to date. The first segment of 'Come Down to Us' is quite nice. The rest, though feels disjointed and dull. I like his intentions behind this EpP but the music doesn't grab me like it usually does.