Burial’s affiliation with Radiohead is apt, given their shared propensity for quiet time and their sometimes alienating dedication to delving into the fringes of their own innovations (though never leaving in doubt their Olympian existence above all the mere men in their field. Their mutual ability to still stun with more populist returns to form is never more emphasized than on the Kindred EP, which, if we take Burial’s career to be in the Kid A stage, offers the same jaw-drop value despite still being more a refinement of vision than a sonic leap forward.
The banger first: Loner stands as the point where Burial realizes that his production and beat complexity allows for a certain amount of blockheadedness with hooks. The trancey three-note riff that makes Loner an anthem would fit in a Paul Oakenfold track – pay attention to any of the softer brush-strokes of this song (the disintegration into silence two minutes in, the many kick-drum permutations, the morphing vinyl crackle), though, and its genius is revealed. The throb and noise terrorism of Ashtray Wasp, its transformation into a Four Tet-referencing bells and reverbed piano movement 9 minutes in belies a willingness to absorb lessons from those few artists in the same sphere as him, while Kindred begins almost comically Burial-esque, before developing into a refined and more cinematic version of his previous work, rendering Untrue almost null and void.
While we’re in London, then: Scuba’s evolution from a respected producer of those skippy beats and empty car park atmospherics founded by Burial into the UK’s foremost exporter of hard, hooky 90s-drenched trance/electrohouse was one of the most thrilling about-faces in the second half of 2011. Personality, his third LP, continues his exploration of taut, kinetic songcraft. The album title seems to imply a disparagement of Scuba’s former predilection for ‘faceless dubstep bollocks’ – with almost all London producers (with the notable exception of Pinch and Shackleton) eschewing glum, skittering dubstep for floor-friendly maximalism, Scuba’s place at the forefront of the bandwagon has been guaranteed by the brashness of his newer productions. It’s difficult not to be sucked in on the first listen – beware hyperbole, however, as repeat listens hammer home that, while Personality is as infectious as electronic albums come, it sorely lacks the innovation of, say, Rustie’s Glass Swords, and in anchoring itself so tightly to genres past it sinks a little the more you take it out to sea.
Words: Daniel Gray