Burial hasn’t dropped a full-length album in almost five years. Let’s think about that for a moment. Back in 2007, dubstep was sleeping on a futon in his dad’s garage and working part-time at a frame shop in his hometown. He’d wake up at eleven every morning, brew a pot of coffee and sit at the Casio for the better part of an hour—tapping a few keys at random, maybe jotting a couple of notes, but never composing anything substantial. At some point his dad would barge in, wearing an open flannel robe, a Chicago Bears tee-shirt and striped boxer shorts, and ask how dubstep planned on spending his day, and when the answer was inevitably unsatisfactory, his father would lecture him for a good half hour about what an abject failure he was as a son and a human-being. After that, the day went in several possible directions. He might go out for a walk and circle his hometown several times, only returning to his dad’s place to eat lunch and let the dog out. If it was a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, he’d ride his bike to the frame shop and spend the next six hours helping middle-age couples find the perfect frame for their kitten posters, family portraits and bland art fair panoramas. Or maybe he’d curl up on the futon, listen to Portishead and sulk the day away. It was a life.
And then 2011 happened, and holy shit, things turned around for dubstep. He became a PR Specialist for a Fortune 500 company, was promoted to Project Manager within months and fired a satellite-guided missile at his dad’s garage just because he fucking could. He also moved into a penthouse, bought an expensive foreign car, got engaged to an Italian supermodel and dumped her for a slightly more fuckable supermodel who wasn’t quite as stingy in the commitment department. Needless to say, he’s hot shit, and everyone knows it. He does keg stands with frat-bros, lurks in the rafters of poetry jams and has a special cameo in Michael Bay’s next project. In fact, last December he purchased a motorboat, some water skis and a shark tank, and he’s hasn’t stopped jumping it since then.
And Burial, who was one of dubstep’s closest friends during the “frame shop” era, hasn’t been around for any of it. What the fuck?
So then, good news and bad news. The bad news is that Kindred isn’t the long-awaited follow-up to Untrue. It’s only three tracks long, clocks in at just over a half hour and ends right when the transcendental malaise begins to settle in. The good news is that it features Burial’s strongest and most ambitious material since 2007.
There are lot of familiar elements here: skittering beats, warped R&B vocals, deep vinyl crackles, melancholic synths, rumbling basslines, metallic percussion. “Kindred” (the song) takes every technique that Burial has developed over the years and fashions them into an eleven minute desolation suite. Don’t get me wrong though—Kindred isn’t a retread of past glories. Not only is Burial giving his arrangements more room to breathe and develop, he’s also working new influences into his palette. “Loner” finds him experimenting with a dark form of rave music that conjures images of zombies shuffling on checkered dance floors, and he pushes his compositional skills to their limit on “Ashtray Wasp”—a multi-movement dubstep behemoth that changes faces with every passing minute. It’s the densest composition he’s ever put together and towers over nearly everything else he’s done.
There’s only one problem I have with this EP—in its current form, Kindred feels like an incomplete statement. If Burial added a few more tracks, he would’ve had something that not only equaled Untrue, but fucking toppled it. Hopefully though, Kindred is a taste of things to come rather than Burial’s final statement of 2012. It’d be silly and presumptuous to call this “EP of the Year,” but 2012 will have to bust its ass to come up with something better.