Sometimes I get a little behind in trying to keep up with new music. Releases slip through the cracks and I discover them months later, only to wonder what took me so long. The debut release by the mysterious Burial is one of those discs, a dank slab of dubstep that's one of the most oppressive (in a good way) pieces of music that I've heard in a long time. It's all low end bass growls, slippery two-step beats, wafting atmospheric washes, and disembodied vocals that come together to form something that's a darkly beautiful spin on dub music.
After a short intro track, "Distant Lights" kicks things off and sounds like street-level murk in a city full of alleys you don't want to go down alone. Rattling beats and huge pulses of bass keep things surging along while string swells, filtered bits of soulful vocals, and stabs of percussion drift through the mix like specters. "Spaceape" is a bit more direct, featuring none other than Spaceape on vocals. It's again claustrophobic as hell, as submerged string stabs struggle to break free from more thunderous beats while amazing vocals drive it all with a foreboding, eerie edge.
Despite a great overall cohesiveness, the album manages to also have a good amount of range as well. "Southern Comfort" is easily one of the more aggressive tracks on the entire album, with faster beats that crack with distortion and huge, undulating stabs of dirty synths that are offset with more melodic phrases. Elsehwere, both "Forgive" and "Night Bus" swirl with dense layers of shivering atmospherics that wouldn't sound out of place on a Tim Hecker or Gas album. That said, Burial is at its best when things are cracking, and that's often. "Prayer" and "Pirates" close out the release with a two song punch that manages to deliver both head-shaking rhythms and haunting subterranean melancholy at the same time. An amazing debut album, both from Burial and the Hyperdub label.