Re-visiting the sounds of Burial’s ‘Untrue’


Photo courtesy of Google

Ryan Guerrero, Managing Editor

London is well-known for its deep, rich underground music scene consisting of various genre’s including grime, dubstep, 2-step, and garage.

Perhaps one of the UK’s most influential underground pioneers, electronic producer Burial paved the way for many artists today not only in London but throughout the rest of the world in the electronic music scene.

Originally an anonymous project similar to UK street-artist Bansky, Burial was identified as William Emmanuel Bevan of South London having released a critically acclaimed self-titled debut album and a few EP’s by 2006.

Creating unique distinctive percussion’s, ambiance, and vocal samples; Burial took electronic music to a new level pioneering a UK garage movement that would later evolve into “future garage”, a genre combining elements of 2-step and early dubstep sounds.

In 2007, Burial released his second and last studio album “Untrue“, an iconic staple in underground electronic music.

Widely acclaimed by music critics (including an 8.4/10 score by Pitchfork), “Untrue” showcased Burial’s heavy use of samples and the producer’s signature skipped drum patterns.

Burial’s production on “Untrue” can best be described as an all-around dark ambience filled with the noise of vinyl crackles, and pitch-shifted and time-stretched vocals with the heavy use of vocoders and delay/echo effects.

It’s almost as if Burial created the album in the middle of the street somewhere in South London on a rainy cold night, which to a certain extent is somewhat true as according to Burial most of the tracks were produced in the middle of the night.

“I would sit around waiting for night to fall, wait for summer to end. Or I would go out, wait for it to get dark, and then I’d go back and work on it, sort of hypnotize myself,” said Burial in an interview with The Guardian in 2007.

From the moment “Archangel” plays after the untitled intro track, listeners get of sense of what Burial’s signature 2-step drum pattern consists of.

The uptempo skittering beats match the sampled vocals perfectly creating a sound like no other, emphasizing the reason why Burial is a true pioneer in the underground electronic music scene.

Burial’s choice of R&B vocal samples are also what makes the UK producer “untouchable” in his production as his samples range from artists such as Ray J and Mariah Carey.

Perhaps the best track off the album is the single “Ghost Hardware”, in which Burial uses a variety of weird percussion drums and noises creating a beautiful piece of art that will put one to sleep instantly.

Influentially, “Ghost Hardware” is an iconic Burial track that is essentially the starting point for present-day “future garage” UK producers such as Vacant, Sorrow, and Asa.

Throughout the rest of the album listeners can hear Burial’s DIY production style that hits heavy emotionally and deep in the conscious of listeners.

Described as weird and unorthodox to some who would expect a rather “pop” oriented EDM album, Burial is as experimental as electronic music can get.

“Raw, rolling drums and sub is the sound I love… and if you don’t get that then you won’t ever get it”, said Burial in late 2007 after the release of “Untrue“.

Untrue” also features many drone/ambient tracks reminiscent of the drone sounds composed by ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno and Moby.

The dreamy track “In McDonalds” is a perfect example of how Burial incorporates drone with mixed vocal samples, fusing the two to create emotional ambience that is hard for many listeners to understand it’s purpose.

It’s purpose can be determined in multiple ways. For some it can be understood as sad and depressing music, while for others it can be sounds of relaxation and something that would be played at a lounge somewhere in London.

Another fantastic track off of “Untrue” is the downbeat “Shell of Light” that features beautiful piano compositions, string instruments, and rain sound effects.

It can’t be stressed enough just how unique and discombobulated Burial’s percussion drums are throughout “Untrue” and the rest of his discography for that matter.

Whether it’s the down-tempo 2-step track of “NYC” off Burial’s “Street Halo” EP or the dark atmospheric “Come Down to Us” off his EP “Rival Dealer“, it’s safe to say that nobody can ever be Burial. There cannot and will not be a replica artist. Many will try, but all will fail.

Although many listeners may have mixed feelings about the album at first, listening to “Untrue” from beginning to end will make one fall in love with Burial’s unique production style and dreamy ambience; especially on tracks such as “Homeless” and “Near Dark”.

The constant darkness of the album, use of samples, and distinctive drum patterns is ultimately what makes “Untrue” a landmark album in the dubstep genre.

Rolling Stone even placed the album at number eleven on their list of the greatest EDM albums of all-time.

Called the “sample master” and a god by listeners ,critics, and aspiring producers; Burial is definitely high on a list of influential electronic music producers such as Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Thom Yorke, and Massive Attack.

His music proceeded to influence a generation of producers from the likes of James Blake, Nosaj Thing, Shlohmo, and more recently an overwhelmingly large number of artists on Soundcloud.

Although the whereabouts of Burial are currently unknown and he may have unofficially called it quits, it’s safe to say he created a profound legacy through a mysterious image and production techniques that shaped new sub-genres worldwide.

Nine years later “Untrue” is still an influential album and classic for many years to come.

You can stream “Untrue” below via Spotify.