Fans who have been waiting over four years for the official follow-up to 2007′s seminal Untrue album may be forgiven for being initially exasperated when the publicity-shy Burial released a second EP in just over a year. Yet the internet buzz around the surprise release a few weeks ago was near unanimous in its praise of the Kindred EP.
Occasionally it’s tempting when a release garners so much buzz to either try to get the review done as quickly as possible so you can immediately join the praise bandwagon or to be contrary and deliberately go against the grain with a particularly critical review. However, after multiple listens over the last few weeks, giving the EP the chance to breathe and seep its way into the consciousness, it remains impossible for me to not join in the applause for the Kindred EP.
With three epic tracks clocking in at over half an hour, this is no minor work. Where last year’s Street Halo EP felt ever so slightly like a retread of Untrue, the new release takes everything that is familiar about Burial’s work (call it post-dubstep if you need to call it something) and distorts it, finding new depths in it and pushing its boundaries.
Taken alone, the title track and EP opener may be the single best thing Burial has ever done. Over 11 and a half minutes in length, all the elements we’ve heard before are present (the crackling broadcast feel, the muted drums, the disassociated vocal samples), but the song boasts a bass line that feels earthier and murkier, and a melodic release that feels even more soulful and transcendent than anything on Untrue. This is music you feel, music to lose yourself in. When “Kindred” slows down for its blissful climax, the effect is weirdly uplifting despite the low-key nature of the music.
“Loner” is probably the weakest of the three songs, but only because it’s sandwiched between a couple of epics. It is one of Burial’s most danceable tunes, gliding along on a 4/4 beat and insistent underlying melody. “Ashtray Wasp,” on the other hand, pulses along on quiet Marshall drums and a similar sense of longing. Burial manages to pull off a second gorgeous slow fadeout on the EP, and again he infuses the song with such a sense of immersion that the near-12-minute length barely registers.
Kindred is an EP in name only. In actuality it is another major work from one of the most distinctive musicians around, half an hour of music made with machinery but with an unmistakably human touch. I remember thinking that the vocal samples on Untrue sounded like an alien approximating human emotion (in a good way), but there is something instinctively touching about Burial’s work. He doesn’t do photos (apart from one on his Myspace page years back), and he doesn’t do interviews. He lets his music do the talking, and these three songs speak volumes.
For more information on Burial’s releases (when he chooses to share it), visit his page at the Hyperdub label site.