Since the release of Rival Dealer in 2013, Burial's style has become hard to pin down. The producer's first few releases consisted of straightforward but catchy garage tracks, underpinned by a sorrowful and ghostly ambience. Since then, Burial seemed to lighten the general mood of his bangers, dialling up the cheese and relegating ambience to its own corner.
But these ambient tracks, once treated by the producer as interludes, lengthened and multiplied. Beats either sparsened or disappeared completely. Melodies dissolved into a wash of sound collage and field recording. Burial's distinctive sound had become fragmented, split down the middle.
Claustro / State Forest feels like an acknowledgement of this change — divided, as it is, between two markedly different sides. ‘Claustro’ is perhaps the most uptempo track Burial has produced; ‘State Forest’ the most languorous. But these two tracks feel like very estranged siblings. One is chirpy, the other dour and dry.
The vocal sample in ‘Claustro’ is lazy and irritating — not as deft in deployment as anything on Untrue. And maybe I’m missing something, but ‘State Forest’ just sounds like Burial paulstretched one of his own tracks.
Sadly, in continuing the disassembly of an iconic sound, this release proves that Burial's early work was greater than the sum of its parts.
Claustro / State Forest is available for purchase and streaming here.
Words by Andrew O’Keefe