It's been 10 years of beautiful, bass-driven precipitation in the form of "Untrue," the landmark dub-bass-dance-step-darkwave release of the enigmatic artist, Burial.
Before I get started, it's fair to acknowledge that there are people much more connected and talented that are giving some great takes on Burial's masterpiece since it just turned 10 years old on November 5. Here's how it went for me, via text conversation with one of my longstanding friends who shares my affinity for music both hard-and-loud and electronic:
Me: TEN YEARS SINCE BURIAL DROPPED "UNTRUE"
Me: My brain can't deal with this truth.
T: Yeah. There have been some good retrospectives floating around
T: That are worth reading
Me: Hahaha good to know, was about to write one. Probably shouldn't. Probably will anyway.
"Untrue" is best described as a marker in time for me. It isn't just about starting off an entire sound and a revolution that sent shockwaves all through dub and bass culture, right on up through college radio stations and Europe, crashing into the then still cool Pitchfork, and smashing right into primetime pop culture as the revolution of digital audio took over everything and has since become the staple for every pop star and raver alike.
Burial crashed into me right when I crashed into a strange combination of my first year at university after transferring from a technical school. It was a cold, dark winter. I spent most of it getting up at odd hours of the morning, speeding off to campus to go through intensely demanding physical trials also known as "practice." Then back to my apartment to sleep, then wake up early afternoon to do it again as winter is when we ran two-a-day practices. By the time that was done, it was pitch black and I was wide awake. Free to stay up all night, get a couple hours of sleep at the most, then off to morning practice before the sun, back to sleep the midday away, and back to practice, then out into the thick, dark cold of winter nights.
Sleep was a commodity and I found a rhythm for it. The rhythm was "Untrue." And it opened me to other artists that were only vaguely similar, but helped to keep a strong vibe running from late 2007, all through 2008, all through 2009, into 2010, and even 2011, by which time my schedule had changed since I was no longer an athlete, had a college degree, was seeing my wife, and got my first full-time job. Only over the last couple of years has "Untrue" moved out of the heavy rotation.
It's still a marker.
I was already big into dub, had been introduced to drum'n'bass, had a significant fascination with Current Value, and absolutely lucked into knowing Lorn on a first-name basis (I saw him in the supermarket not long ago). And it went even further back for me. In the 1990s, I was deeply fascinated by alternative music that incorporated electronic elements, probably because it was everywhere from Beck to Soul Coughing to Atari Teenage Riot to White Zombie to Rammstein. It was everywhere. Since I had already fallen in love with hip-hop and hardcore music, the bridge of electronic rhythms facilitated my young, impressionable brain into further waters of bizarre subgenres. In the early 2000s, I'd stumbled only a Sasha album, and then an Amon Tobin album. They were frequently spun between the heaviest death metal, metalcore and hardcore music I could find. Sasha eventually did a mix that a friend gave me. It had a M83 remix on it that because my most played song in iTunes quickly and for the next several years. M83 was another band that I loved, distortion drenched, that dipped into the waters of electronic.
But it was Burial from the first time I heard it. You can read quotes, reviews, interviews. It's true. It feels intensely intimate, cloud with light rain. It was the gateway to sleep when all the rhythms of life were chaos and disorder. The bleak winter, cold and dark, wrapping it's hands around my mind and body, throwing me into the chaos of late nights, early mornings and physical exhaustion. The desperate need for sleep, to ignore the precious few hours of sunlight I craved in order to find a few hours of calm unconsciousness could be found in the perfect rhythm of the very odd Burial, in the depth of "Untrue."
By the time 2009 rolled around, under the most played section of songs in my iTunes, the top track was M83 "Don't Save Us From the Flames (Superpitcher Remix)." The next 13 tracks, in order, were:
Shell of Light
If you're not keeping up, that's the tracklist for "Untrue."
I've grown a lot in the past decade. There are things I remember very fondly and things that I can't even imagine being a part of my reality. Burial's "Untrue," was a powerful marker that calls me back to that time, I can feel it.
The album is still for today. I played it in full today after at least a year since my last full listen. There still isn't a track to skip and there's still a rhythm. I'm sure it's just coincidence that it was released in November, when the United States thinks the brilliant idea of moving the time back on every clock and pretending to be enthusiastic about the fact that the sun is long gone before you punch out of your 9-to-5. I'm sure it is coincidence that the restlessness of being confined, mostly, to inner spaces during the long, dark, cold winter creates a mania that needs to be assuaged.
"Untrue" was, and is, a beautiful album that finds the perfect rhythm to carry you through, to sleep, to closeness, to the return of the sun. That's what made it so monumental for me. An album that took your mind deeper than surroundings, that wrapped you up, and set your mind to a steady rhythm. Listening to it now, it still does.
by Daniel Coughlin