Burial, the recording name of London producer Will Bevan, is one of the most cultishly adored electronic producers of our time. With his albums Burial (2006) and Untrue (2007), he created a sonic universe that was at once beautiful and bleak. His music conjures immediate images of rain-swept streets, melancholic comedowns and lost futures.
Burial’s emotive appeal was best captured by Simon Reynolds, in a major retrospective essay on Untrue:
people respond to Burial’s work in a way that is different to anybody else in dance music—different even from the cult reverence for Aphex Twin. Fans testify in a much more alternative-rock way about how his tunes “saved my life.” The sound of Burial has touched people, opened them up to difficult emotions, hurt them in valuable ways.
The cultural impact of these works cannot be understated, with its style and aesthetic reappearing in mainstream pop music, films, and even within academic theory. For many passionate fans, Burial is simply the best soundtrack to the never-ending disruption and disorientation of life in the early 21st century. In the years since, rather than releasing a third album, he has recorded a string of EP projects. These singles releases have finally been collected by his legendary label Hyperdub, under the title Tunes 2011- 2019. It’s an uneven but fascinating release.
The compilation starts with a foreboding series of ambient works. Long and beat less, they might test the patience of even ardent fans! But, then with the sinister and atmospheric “Young Death” and “Nightmarket” the unstoppable momentum begins to build. Tunes proves that while Burial’s music is more curated and catered for personal listening rather than club speakers, he still makes undeniable bangers. The compilation is an aural feast of hard beats, brilliant samples and pumping synth lines.
Dark and emotional, addictive and warm, it’s hard to choose a personal stand-out track amidst such riches. But I’m going to choose “Loner”, which confidently and slowly picks up steam, before unleashing seven minutes of relentless and moody techno. In an interview with Mark Fisher, Bevan discussed how specific sound effects from films like Aliens and Blade Runner influenced his work. These dystopian overtones are fitting, as Burial’s music always seem beamed in from five minutes in the future, in all its terrors and possibilities.