Wednesday, June 21, 2006

(the competely unexpected resumption of an irregular series applauding well executed sentences)

Opening sentence of Tim Finney's Pitchfork review of Burial:

"The past 12 months have witnessed a flurry of reminders that dubstep can be more than just an intricately sculpted deathmask for UK garage's sarcophagus"


Especially as "the flurry" boils down to Skream's "Request Line" and something by Pitch and... the Burial album basically!

But he gives the latter a qualified thumbs-up. Oddlly underwhelmed by "Southern Comfort" which I think is Burial's idiomorphic classic, his "Born To Be Wild". And says there's an immaculate EP struggling to get out of a patchy album, which has a grain of truth--that perfect EP could almost be the EP that came out at the end of last year, "South London Boroughs", two of whose four tracks are also on the album, right? And are two of the best things on the album, one of them being the aforementioned "Southern Comfort". When I first heard it--that track, and the EP as a whole--I distinctly remember being agreeably reminded of gloomcore at its most morosely majestic, things like Reign's "Hall" and "Skeleton's March". Going back to it after getting the advance CD-r, though, I couldn't quite recover that sensation, couldn't quite work out what made think of the gloomcore squad, except for a certain woozy mournfulness--those sensuous canopies of sorrow-sound--a sensation of resolutely marching through an endless mental fog of despondency. What that classic Burial sound reminds me more of now is Konigsforest and Zauberberg by Gas--Mike Ink sampling refrains from German classical music and looping them over a muffled, changeless 4-to-the-floor beat, the shimmery, shivery reverberance of the original recordings adding an airy vastness and feeling of altitude.

One of the tracks from the EP --"Night Train"--that didn't make the album has a Michael Jackson sample on it, if i remember right. "Let the rhythm get into you", I think. Nice.

The other thought I had about Burial in particular, and dubstep in general, is that it's basically
Macro Dub Infection meets Isolationism, if you think about it. Actually one of the best tracks on Isolationism is David Toop & Max Eastley's "Burial Rites (Phosporescent)" and the duo did a whole album called Buried Dreams, right?.And the big isolationist dude in those days (93-94) was Thomas Koner who via Porter Ricks and the whole Chain Reaction/Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound nexus connects up quite nicely with dubstep. And fuck me but don't the Berlin contingent actually have a sub-label called Burial Mix. (And how come no reviewer i've seen has yet mentioned Nuum-ancestral tune "The Burial" by Leviticus, or indeed the whole burial tune ,sound-system-finishing-off-its-rival killertrack connotation?).

I wrote a piece about Isolationism back in '94 and said it was very interesting but (more to have an angle than as a real critique really) had a bit at the end saying "but it's a bit white, though", pointing to similar doomy and chiliastic vibes in trip hop (tricky with "aftermath" and "ponderosa", DJ Shadow's elegaics, the darkside of jungle, etc). Dubstep, fusing the abstract atmospherics and emptiness of isolationism with the foreboding bass-pressure of the reggaematic UK sound system-influenced Bristol-London 'Nuum , could almost be an answer to that last paragraph.

The key difference between Isolationism and dubstep isn't just a matter of the first having no rhythm or groove, though, it's a subtle shift of emphasis. Isolationism had this monastic/hermetic impulse to seek out empty space, depopulated vistas (sort of ECM album cover but without the Bachelard-esque "intimate immensity", more like an aloof inclemency, an utter indifference verging on hostility to the human).... Koner with his series of albums inspired by Antarctica, or the way the other artists on Isolationism induced mind's eye reveries of deserts, tundra, subterranean grottoes, virgin planets; extremes of climate or temperature, like the polar twilight in Siberia, or the interior of the Sun. Whereas dubstep (and again Burial specifially) is very much about built-up areas, urban space, places that should be bustling with life.... but are now uncannily, eerily empty. Either that, or just lonely-making. Dubstep is desolationist.

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