Burial's 'Untrue' turns 10
November 5, 2017 10:49 AM   Subscribe

 
I love Untrue with all my heart, but it's always a bit dismaying to see the ritualized canonization of music as it occurs. List after list of the top ten, the best, the most influential, and always the lean towards the lone masculine genius, and the sliding away of the memory of music made by women. Albums by women, no matter how lauded at the time, tend to fade when the "greatest of" lists are made.
posted by jokeefe at 11:03 AM on November 5 [22 favorites]


jokeefe, good point. Sadly, it's systemic: women nearly absent from Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time, with a mere five of the top 100 were female artists.

Some bonus music links to expand the article: Leviticus - "Burial", what Simon called the biggest anthem of jungle's breakout year, 1994; Gant’s “Sound Bwoy Burial” is an early UK garage classic.

I did not know the history of the term "burial" in regards to reggae, so that's worth the price of admission alone, thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on November 5 [4 favorites]


Though, as I say, I love Burial and Untrue-- what was the quote-- that he wanted to make music that created the feeling of walking on dark streets and coming across the lighted windows of a late-night tea shop? Can't remember the exact quote, but I posted it on Facebook once and someone immediately replied, Ah, you're talking about Burial. It's like a kind of auditory magic.
posted by jokeefe at 11:14 AM on November 5 [4 favorites]


Untrue is the greatest expression of the ineffable mystery at the heart of our strange strange homeland of South London.
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:14 AM on November 5 [3 favorites]


I was a broke and despairing student in the North of England when this album came out and for me it will forever mean nighttime journeys through cold, dark postindustrial ruins to and from Tesco.
posted by Rust Moranis at 11:22 AM on November 5 [8 favorites]


One of my favorite records of all time; a true reflection of solitude in all its forms.

(And in case you missed it, there are two new Burial tracks.)
posted by raihan_ at 11:26 AM on November 5 [6 favorites]


Albums by women, no matter how lauded at the time, tend to fade when the "greatest of" lists are made.

This is why I won't discuss or share lists that don't include a fair number of women, unless it's to point out that they don't include women. I don't think it's right to participate in the process of erasure.

(And I wish more people felt that way.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:29 AM on November 5 [6 favorites]


Who are some women that make music that sounds like Untrue-era Burial? I'd love to listen!
posted by reductiondesign at 11:36 AM on November 5


I am no expert, reductiondesign, but try FKA Twigs' first two EPs.
posted by jokeefe at 11:55 AM on November 5 [6 favorites]


Hey, can someone check something for me? Search spotify for Foster Care by Burial and tell me if it's the correct song, or if it plays "Aidy's Girl is a Computer" by Darkstar.

I've emailed spotify several times over the past seven or so years, and at least twice now they've promised they'd correct things. I want to make sure the problem isn't somehow on contained on my end before I send them a "can I speak to your manager" email.
posted by tychotesla at 12:11 PM on November 5


> Who are some women that make music that sounds like Untrue-era Burial? I'd love to listen!

You could try some Holly Herndon, though it's a little spikier. She is fascinating to listen to when she talks about her process, her thinking, the music as a whole.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 12:13 PM on November 5 [5 favorites]


tychotesla, it's the correct song for me. 5:32 length.

Does this link do anything for you?
https://open.spotify.com/track/3R48jTqNODCXdgYk33FrN7
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 12:22 PM on November 5


Both songs are the same length. Memailing you.
posted by tychotesla at 12:37 PM on November 5


I don't think the point is to find women that are making music that sound like Burial, or that having a post about Burial is wrong. But this is the process of what the erasure of art by women looks like:

When deciding whose album to buy, you pick a man.
When deciding whose album to write about, you pick a man.
When deciding who was the most influential artist, you pick a man.

Later, all of the classics are somehow by men.

It seemed to me that jokeefe was commenting not on the quality of the album or whether it deserves this kind of coverage, but on how this piece fits into the pattern. In a world where male and female artists, there would be no pattern - and it would be unremarkable to see another male artist elevated to the status of "most important." We could discuss whether the album really deserved the title based on its qualities and influence free of the question of sexism; that's not the world we live in though, and it can't be teased out.

In the spirit of sharing artists doing influential and important work in this century, though ... I'd probably have to mention Erykah Badu.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:38 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


My favorite Burial was the Moth / Wolf Cub split 12" they did with Four Tet. (Though isn't the joke that Burial is Four Tet?)
posted by Catblack at 12:58 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


I'd probably have to mention Erykah Badu.

Maybe a clearer way to draw a line through this is that Burial owes a lot to the likes of Erykah Badu. I think he's been fairly open about that though.
posted by atoxyl at 1:10 PM on November 5


Burial deserves this level of recognition as much as anybody I can think of, though. As a musician the thing that always amazes me is how specific and fully formed his vision is, how thoroughly it conveys exactly what he wanted it to - which he is also unusually articulate about explaining. And at the same time you can also see it's just kind of a collection of things one dude happens to be into. That Wire/Mark Fisher interview remains one of the best musician interviews I've read in my life.
posted by atoxyl at 1:15 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


To me the other essential Burial is the Kindred EP, by the way.
posted by atoxyl at 1:16 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


When I first heard it, I thought: this is "Urban Music”, only for burned-out, ruined post-apocalyptic cities. A smooth, wistful old song of love and betrayal plays on a soldier's radio through the rubble of a corridor somewhere, as VX gas and asbestos dust catch the wan sunlight.
posted by acb at 1:19 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


"It's more about when you come back from being out somewhere; in a minicab or a night bus, or with someone, or walking home across London late at night, dreamlike, and you've still got the music kind of echoing in you, in your bloodstream, but with real life trying to get in the way. I want it to be like a little sanctuary. It's like that 24-hour stand selling tea on a rainy night, glowing in the dark."

It really does perfectly describe the music, I never really "got" the kind of ambient dubstep he was making and all of it's critical acclaim until I put it on walking home from the campus library after late night cramming. Walking to Burial through the city at night is a total treat and it's validating to know he makes music with that in mind
posted by windbox at 1:22 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


Also if you're looking for women that could easily kill it on a mix just as much as a Burial track, Maya Jane Coles is a good place to start.
posted by windbox at 1:32 PM on November 5 [6 favorites]


And at the same time you can also see it's just kind of a collection of things one dude happens to be into.

Like, early on it's basically a collage of PlayStation games, 00s R&B, UK rave nostalgia and atmospheric samples.
posted by atoxyl at 1:32 PM on November 5


For a while, there was apparently a dubstep subgenre named “Nightbus”, named so because it's all about the feels when one's coming down off meow-meow at 4am, returning to one's parents' place near Ladbroke Grove from a warehouse party in Hackney Wick or something.
posted by acb at 1:36 PM on November 5 [9 favorites]


Who are some women that make music that sounds like Untrue-era Burial? I'd love to listen!

different genre but Jlin has been much lauded as a pioneer in footwork which is faster bpm but just as if not more dark

she's a blue collar steelworker from Gary, IN with a series of really amazing teachers who's making music that's being lauded by hipsters and nerds alike. def music for long lonely drives in the dark through the Rust Belt
posted by runt at 2:44 PM on November 5 [9 favorites]


Walking to Burial through the city at night is a total treat and it's validating to know he makes music with that in mind

Yeah, I've never lived in London but Burial's music instantly reminded me of getting lost walking back from parties through impersonal parts of Boston and NYC in the middle of the night. (It was the early '00s so at the time, I was actually listening to something like, e.g., this by Monolake.)

I feel like I could particularly relate to the sense of rave as an "implanted memory" (which I think is a perfect turn of phrase), because I both was a little young for the OG early-90s heyday, and having grown up stateside, was living in a part of the world where "electronica" (lol) was pretty fringe and suspect. So, especially initially, I experienced that music a lot more by pirating it at home and listening alone on headphones. I think Burial also really captures that sense of being pressed up against the glass from the outside.

I also think it's significant that Burial's work is coded kind of queer in this essay, because that also matches part of something I appreciate about it. For me, a semi-closeted queer boy with techno-utopian sympathies, part of what raving represented was a kind of free-love fluidity of gender and sexual expression, and the promise of expressing things and connecting with people that I couldn't normally. So part of the elegiac quality comes from feeling like a better world was close but that you had just missed it, and that society was moving on in the wrong direction, and that to some extent it was all a failed experiment or had never actually been that utopian anyway.

I think you see some similar threads running through some of Porpentine's interactive fiction, now that I think about it -- a sort of promise of queer human connection, but in a way that is also dystopic, mediated through technology, at a distance... I don't know.

There were a couple of times where the linked article made it sound a little too much like omg, I can't believe Burial invented urban alienation. But I think it's fair to say he was the breakout exponent of this kind of melancholic, brooding "afterglow" (another good word choice), and Untrue is a masterpiece.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:31 PM on November 5 [7 favorites]


Burial pretty much defines why I get so frustrated with people generically labeling electronic music "dance" music. There is nothing dance about this. It's just music. Very personal, brilliant music.
posted by Jimbob at 3:41 PM on November 5 [3 favorites]


Albums by women, no matter how lauded at the time, tend to fade when the "greatest of" lists are made.
There was this retrospective of Bic Runga's Drive.. Perhaps posting something similar would help address the problem you have identified?
posted by Sebmojo at 5:19 PM on November 5


I've liked Simon Reynolds music writings, but I don't quite get with his Ian Curtis vibe here, this music reminds me of Bristol/Tricky.
posted by ovvl at 5:44 PM on November 5 [4 favorites]


Thanks for this. I've always loved Archangel since I first heard it in the outro of Hot Chip's 2007 Essential Mix, but I just listened to all of Untrue and it's absolutely beautiful.
posted by karlshea at 6:26 PM on November 5


That record mashed buttons I hadn't known I had, previously. God damn.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:52 PM on November 5


"Implanted memory" works so well that I can't even.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:53 PM on November 5 [2 favorites]


I've always felt Warren Ellis described it perfectly in this piece from 2007:

The textures of the thing are incredible. The beats come from under the road, the breaks come from three rooms away, and some of the vocals come from over your shoulder and thirty years ago. People sing with the crackle of dusty old vinyl. The ghosts of old musics.

I’m on the twelfth listen, and I still don’t feel like I’ve nailed what this album is. Because I don’t think Burial set out to make a funeral for soul music. But none of these lush R&B voices are alive. They’re all haunting broken speakers. They’re all coming from abandoned houses, the middle of empty streets, the floor under your flat where sometimes you hear someone tapping at the walls but that can’t be right because no-one’s lived down there in years.

I’m reminded of the old-style ghost hunters, training their mics on haunted rooms, and playing back the recordings to hear, under the bustle of ordinary life, the sound of dead people trying to make themselves heard to the world of the breathing.

posted by Petersondub at 12:16 AM on November 6 [9 favorites]


the Most Important Electronic Album of the Century So Far? This is a thread about Fever Ray?
posted by Theta States at 6:45 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


raihan_: And in case you missed it, there are two new Burial tracks.

He's had a fairly steady trickle of new tracks (Discogs; Wikipedia) since Untrue, including another single and EP this year alone. In total, that's enough for an album or two of non-album tracks.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 AM on November 6


possibly-true story over on /r/radiohead about drunkenly meeting Thom Yorke and telling him:
“I just wanted to tellll you, that, you know, back in ’07 when In Rainbows came out, I was ssssure that it was going to be the best album of the year. Buuuut, sorry man, Burial’s Untrue just crushed it.”

Pause.

Pause.

“I FUCKING KNOW RIGHT??!!”

Holy shit. He didn’t punch me. We’re laughing again. WOW.
posted by secretseasons at 7:37 AM on November 6 [4 favorites]


Burial releases always seem like this cat-- I look and look periodically for months, then when I'm not looking, suddenly I learn of a new 12".
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:48 AM on November 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I find myself thinking "I wish Burial had put out more albums...Oh, there's another single!"

It was confusing for a few years because I always thought of Dubstep being Burial and Distance and the like. It seems weird to even call them that now.

Ghostek decided to take the job on if you need more in this vein.

And searching for those artists reinforces for me that my idea of what is well known and what isn't is completely skewed.
posted by bongo_x at 10:42 AM on November 6


Albums by women, no matter how lauded at the time, tend to fade when the "greatest of" lists are made.

Perhaps posting something similar would help address the problem you have identified?


If making posts about music made by women would help to address structural biases in canon formation, I'd be happy to all day. But individual posts don't really help; it requires active awareness on the part of those who are "in charge" of creating the canon. I'm glad to see the Pitchfork is publishing more female writers, but the changes need to be deeper than that... they need to occur at the point when (for example) the list of Greatest Albums of the Century is drawn up and somehow everyone's forgotten about Vespertine, despite being a critical favourite on release. That sort of thing. It's a very common mechanism and can be seen over and over again in literary history.

Anyway. I'd like to plug Tricky's Maxinquaye as another album in the constellation of works rooted in both landscape and time...
posted by jokeefe at 11:51 AM on November 6


I've liked Simon Reynolds music writings, but I don't quite get with his Ian Curtis vibe here,

Pitchfork writers are contractually obliged to compare random things to Joy Division at least four times a year.
posted by Jimbob at 1:50 PM on November 6


But none of these lush R&B voices are alive. They’re all haunting broken speakers. They’re all coming from abandoned houses, the middle of empty streets, the floor under your flat where sometimes you hear someone tapping at the walls but that can’t be right because no-one’s lived down there in years.


Yes, exactly! I remember trying to describe the sound of "Untrue" to someone, and I ended up saying something like "Imagine that somebody murdered a UK Garage record, and this is its ghost...."
posted by tantrumthecat at 3:54 PM on November 6 [2 favorites]


Burial is such good music to be empty to. Gonna have to check out the links to similar lady artists in these comments, thanks y'all!
posted by egypturnash at 4:32 PM on November 6


oh damn Jlin's stuff is super rad
posted by egypturnash at 6:13 PM on November 6


Charles Mudede, The Stranger, November 15, 2007: "I want to be to Burial what Paul was to Jesus."
posted by Superfrankenstein at 6:45 PM on November 6


This got me going through Burial's catalog for stuff I didn't appreciate enough the first time. "Truant" is fantastic. "Rival Dealer" is good too though the lo-fi mix does it a disservice I think.
posted by atoxyl at 8:13 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


For post-"Untrue" Burial, I can't even see the titles of Four Walls / Paradise Circus without devoting the next 20+ minutes to them.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 8:39 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


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