There are multiple reasons to explain the ongoing fascination of William Emmanuel Bevan and his alter ego Burial, that much seems for sure. The nocturnal sound of his project appeals to an audience way bigger than just the dubstep scene or the hip electronic underground, maybe because he freed himself from any genre limitations a while ago. 2007’s album Untrue is, to this day, one of the most important electronic albums of the century, being filled with a lot of details, twists and turns and mostly a lot of heart and emotion, something that seems quite hard to achieve by only using samples and reduced sounds.
The other fascinating aspect is the mystery surrounding Bevan although it isn’t a mystery at all. Yes, there’s the infamous selfie he released a while ago but before that there was literally nothing. No interviews, no live dates, no promotion, nothing beyond the music. As one person at this label Hyperdub once pointed out to me: ‘He’s not hiding himself, he just doesn’t want to be famous.’ In an age where digital tools often indirectly force us to go full public and head for fame (especially when you’re an artist), Bevan is a rock of refusal.
He lets the music do the talking, allows it to take its own shape in the hearts and minds of the audience and I personally can’t thank him enough for this.
Despite its universal praise back in 2007, Burial hasn’t released a proper full studio album in ten years, instead he decided to pop up on a more or less regular basis (often shortly before Christmas) with only one or two new songs. But that’s not the whole picture, obviously. For those of you who lost track and like to reignite their love for Burial, here’s a quick chronological round-up of what he has been up to in the past ten years.
2009 – Teaming Up With Four Tet
Remember when there was an actual Tumblr dedicated to the theory that Burial was actually Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet? That theory probably had its start back in 2009 when Bevan and Hebden teamed up for a collaborative double single called Moth/ Wolf Club. It truly got the best of both worlds but that theory felt already pretty odd back then considering the fact that Hebden never needed an alias to release his adventurous sounds.
2011 – Knightly Accolade by Massive Attack and a new EP
The next collaborative effort by Burial saw him teaming up with the legendary Massive Attack to rework their songs Four Walls and Paradise Circus which turned out to be another wise connection. But more importantly – the three-track long Street Halo EP was Burial‘s first solo release in four years and it continued his path from Untrue, mixing smooth groove with pitched samples and atmospheric sounds, resulting in an almost melancholic vibe.
2012 – Completing the unofficial third album
2012 was quite an active release year for Burial. He quickly followed Street Halo with another three-track long EP called Kindred which included the pumping Loner that saw Bevan heading for an almost jungle-like 90s sound. Street Halo and Kindred were also sold on one CD as limited promotional item and I must say they work really great together as a narrative. At the end of the year, Bevan released another epic double single called Truant/ Rough Sleeper which included way more ideas than just for two tracks (both songs are over ten minutes long). Oh, and he also unleashed Nova, another collaborative song with Four Tet. In the end 2012 might have been the closest moment we’ve gotten towards a third Burial album if he had picked for a more patient release strategy.
2013 – Expanding your musical territory
Another December, another EP. 2013’s Rival Dealer saw Burial heading for his bravest musical direction so far, adding dreamy and almost cheesy 80s pop moments as well as cinematic ambient sounds to his musical cosmos. He furthermore added a theme to his music since Rival Dealer was specifically dedicated to all the outlaws and misfits with its samples addressing such issues as transgender acceptance. By now, Bevan has gotten musically unpredictable.
2014/2015 – Laying low
The following two years have been the producer’s most silent ones, even compared to his standards. For the first time in a while he skipped the December release in 2014 and his only ‘new’ song remained the official release of his lost track Lambeth on the 10th anniversary sampler of Hyperdub. He resurfaced in 2015 with a new track called Temple Sleeper which was an epic floorfilling jungle banger I definitely didn’t see coming.
2016 – A tender return
A new double single was released in 2016 called Young Death / Nightmarket. Those tunes focussed on the more experimental side of Burial as they moved his sound away from the dancefloor into more nightmarish ambient territory. But, since you can’t be sure, he also released a single with label buddy Zomby which was heading straight back to the club, obviously.
2017 – New Productive Heights
The radio silence of Burial seems officially over since this year marks another productive high. First, his double/single Subtemple/ Beachfires continued the move towards reduced ambient structures that sound unlike anything he has ever released. Burial furthermore released his first official remixes in a decade. The one for drum’n’bass legend Goldie and his Inner City Life is another epic ride while his version for Mønic’s Deep Summer almost felt like a light-hearded piece of sun-filled electronica. And that’s not the end of it. There’s also the house-infected new single called Rodent as well as his first non-Hyperdub release in years with the pumping single Pre-Dawn/ Indoors which is, again, club material with an edgy twist.
As you can see, the world of Burial isn’t really one of boredom, he remains hungry, unpredictable and his music is still heading into any imaginable direction. Not everything reaches the level of his emotionally-charged Untrue material but that’s obviously also part of the whole mystery. I wouldn’t mind another full-length release by him but as long as he keeps things as exciting as in the past ten years, I really don’t care that much about formats.