Few electronic artists come with a pedigree on par with William Bevan’s. In an era where genres – particularly ones led by the word “dub” – are regurgitated into the eager mouths of spunions across the globe, Bevan has blazed a path both mesmerizing and inimitable. The man known as “Burial” emerged in 2006, promptly dropped two masterpieces to widespread acclaim, and nearly swiped a Mercury Prize before even revealing his identity. His locomotive beats and masterful sampling have carved a niche that teeters somewhere between dance music and alienation. That being said, while his releases continue to be consistently brilliant, they run the risk of predictability. Nobody on earth is producing tracks like Burial, and if they did it would undoubtedly sound like a cheap imitation. His collaborations have deviated slightly, and the result has been genius, but I feel like I know what exactly what I’m about to get on this 12” split. Considering his music’s unique complexion, is that such an problem?
On “Truant”, Burial destroys the notion that he’s treading water. The scene is familiar, and that likely wont ever change. Bevan’s music always depicts a setting, and this one features the familiar dark and grainy characteristics. But whereas some of Burial’s best work features deep, inescapable loops, here he keeps the listener guessing, making more creative decisions in 12 minutes than some bands do over the course of a full length. The front half is innately percussive, with bass tremors rhythmically shaking below your feet. He reduces the pattern to silence and injects a sample quintessentially Burial. With how close he is playing his hand to the vest on this track, it’s a welcome addition. Then shit breaks loose. He builds momentum with his army of percussion samples, creating a whirlwind around a distant melody. The bridge is almost orchestral, with big grandiose progressions, and it feels like the song has to end. Instead, Bevan exhibits full control by injecting a drum loop from another idea entirely, laughing in the face of predictability. Dance beats try to scratch their way out all over the track, but they’re repressed and pulled apart just when they begin to resemble something that could be considered dance-able. The bass manages to break loose and wobble before he pushes it back below the surface. You have to wonder if that was a statement track, even if Bevan seems uninterested in that sort of notion. I’m going to choose to imagine him behind the controls like a kid, playfully disassembling a toy.
“Rough Sleeper” offers a much brighter, welcoming background. Big melodies layered on top of “Raver”-esque four on the floor. Big grumbling bass leads a twisting ride through scratchy (saxophone?) samples. This time the percussion is pushed down and the melodies take on a cathedral like stature. When it drops and materializes again, its warmer and brighter than were used to from Burial, with the familiar shaker vrs. bass drum patches that provide the sidewalk. Strands of melodies dance around each other offering one of the more inviting tracks in Burial’s catalog. That is until Bevan drives us back into the dark, leaving the same aftertaste as previous releases. The beats punish to the finish line, and it’s clear that Burial’s aesthetic just made several notable shifts. Nothing that’s called predictable could demand attention so sharply.