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Kode9 unveils new Burial music (maybe) at Brainfeeder Sessions

March 30, 2010 |  2:34 pm
Burial Since emerging in 2006 as the anonymous avatar of dubstep, Burial has sought to stay shrouded in a mystery equal to the spectral shadow-land quality of his music. So, even though he’s slated to drop the most anticipated dance music album of 2010, no one knows the details. There’s no title, no release date, and he’s certainly not giving interviews. Seemingly, the only one with any information is Kode9 (real name, Steve Goodman), the Hyperdub Records impresario who partially lifted the veil by (maybe) playing music from the album at the Downtown Independent on Sunday night before an audience of 100 people lingering in the grim late hours of a marathon Brainfeeder Session.

Predictably, questions as to what exactly Kode9 played Sunday night remain unanswered. When pressed further, Adam Stover (who organized the night along with his Brainfeeder brethren, the producer Flying Lotus) said the new material is “possibly for several different projects. I’m not sure in what form they’d be released, or even their names. Kode9 keeps almost all the information to himself.” Which is probably for the best. The only thing we can be sure of is that what Goodman played to the audience was one of the most thrilling 45-minute DJ sets in recent memory.

With musicians often reduced to self-caricature through nonstop coverage, Burial stands in stark contrast to the media-saturated Internet Age. The music world’s closest cognate to graffiti artist Banksy (and for my money, far more worthy of the hype), Burial’s blend of 2-Step, Dub, Garage, drum 'n’ bass, the grainy crackle of UK pirate radio, and the violet skies and cold corrosive rain of London, maintains a quality that summons vanished worlds, and offers hazy revelations that arrive in the ashtray hours of a gray dawn. Listening to Burial has always felt like being in on a conspiracy, and that was precisely the mood conjured at the Downtown Independent, with the lights dimmed and the only visual on the screen being the mercury-colored flicker of the Hyperdub logo.

The closest comparison for the new tracks is the “Moth/Wolf Cub” 12" that Burial did last year with his old schoolmate Four Tet. Yet though those tracks seemed content with crafting a gorgeous minimalism, Burial’s new material seemed to have grander aspirations. Epic would be the wrong word -- this music still retains the smoked-out bedroom melancholy of “Untrue,” the album that earned Burial (real name: William Bevan) a nomination for the 2008 Mercury Prize. But they had a symphonic quality previously alien to his trademark blend of disembodied R&B samples and slashing bayonet drum patterns. It was unmistakably Burial; the slurring rainstorm effects and plaintive wails remained omnipresent. But where his early works seemed like a mosaic of moods, his new material felt more scattered -- as though he’d evolved beyond bottling a particular moment in favor of distilling a kaleidoscope of emotion into a fully formed four-minute suite.

Drums beat like fractured clocks, with the glass cracked but the chronometer keeping perfect time. Skittering piano glissandi. Human voices filtered through computers seemed to possess a raw distorted humanism belying the synthetic distortions. Set against the dark canvas of the flickering film screen, they suggested a London filled with tar-smoke, stained glass and a graffiti-stained Underground. The break beats possessed a necromantic quality, levitating and then darting in a dozen directions full of glowing light and alien swiftness.

The experience felt otherworldly -- as though we were being let in on a secret. In a landscape where the listening experience is too frequently funneled through a system of binary numbers and tinny computer speakers, hearing the new Burial material on a booming system surrounded by kindred spirits engendered an increasingly rare sense of mystery and magic. The sort of thing you thought had died a long time ago. Which would be fitting for a man who goes by the name Burial.

-- Jeff Weiss

Image via Georgina Cook