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What I’m Listening To: Burial ‘Rival Dealer’ EP

Last week saw a flurry of confusion in the world of music following the announcement of Burial’s latest EP Rival Dealer on Hyperdub. Rumours of an imminent release had been circulating for some time, but it seems few were expecting such a progression in sound from the secretive recording artist.

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In 2006, his self-titled debut album received critical acclaim for it’s unique take on the dubstep genre, and was named “Album of the Year” by Wire magazine, catapulting the once unknown artist into the world of fame. Seven years and 15 releases later, Rival Dealer is proof of a notable change in direction from his previous material. In a text from Burial read out on Mary Anne Hobbs’ latest music show, the artist explained his idea behind the release:

“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. It’s like an angel’s spell to protect them against the unkind people, the dark times, and the self-doubts.”

The EP refers to issues surrounding sexuality, acceptance and relationships, with the final track featuring sample cuts from a speech by transgender filmmaker Lana Wachowski.

The title track begins with familiar eerie, distorted white-noise sounds that are prominent in many a Burial track, and continues with an echoing and slightly distorted sample quote – “I’m gonna love you more than anyone”. The track progresses with a drop into a post-90s, rave-trance beat, which is cut up with more intimate sample cuts, including the lines like “This is who I am”, and “Sometimes, you’re trying to find yourself, and you will be, always”, cutting a deeper feeling behind the track and giving the beat a more sinister tone.

Hiders is next, an enjoyable pop song that is brought to life with recurring piano notes and a soothing synth sound. Halfway in, the track is filled with a progressive drum pattern creating a nostalgic release, which is swiftly cut to make way for an eerie sample “Come down to us”, lifted from his previous EP release, Kindred, last year, which creates a smooth progression into the final track.

Come Down To Us completes the release, beginning with another sample “Excuse me, I’m lost”, which is followed by an eerie silence. The track shifts with a ghostly Sitar chord, and is continuously broken up in wild patterns, featuring further quotes that chop and change in mood, with one optimistic cut that reoccurs throughout “You are not alone”. Wachowski’s speech is presented clear and true at the end, eclipsing the intimate and personal feel to the EP.

Rival Dealer demonstrates Burial’s music at it’s best, defining the darkest moments of life and re-creating them with an identifiable sound. Pushing his sound further and creating a clearer meaning has shown a new strength in his material, a welcome change which we can only hope to hear plenty more of in the future.

The full Rival Dealer EP is now available to purchase via Hyperdub here.

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