Simultaneously dark, light, stereotypical and out of character, ‘Rival Dealer’ is an EP on which London producer Burial outclasses and outmanoeuvres his peers.
The title track starts in the most Burial way possible, with ominous buzzing sounds, vinyl crackles and misplaced rave-era vocals that could have fit snugly onto his 2007 album ‘Untrue’. That’s as far as the stereotypes go, though: the beat that eventually kicks in is miles away from the woodblock shuffle now expected of Burial, and instead deploys the Soul Searchers’ classic ‘Ashley’s Roachclip’ break at breakneck speed. Shifting up a beat is transformative, and what comes next blows any Burial clichés away. Five minutes in the track pauses, then heads into deepest, darkest techno territory that sounds like the product of a Berlin dungeon.
‘Hiders’ follows, and is even more outlandish: its beat, vocal and submerged synth line bring to mind 80s pop at its most magnificently overblown. It will likely split Burial’s audience, and yet its depressively ecstatic feel and scuffed edges are recognisably the work of the man who wrote ‘Archangel’. ‘Come Down To Us’, the 13-minute EP closer, is even more moving. Its funereal pace recalls the blunted fever of Burial’s Massive Attack remixes, but the layered vocals, Disney-esque strings and synth washes serge with murky and melodic euphoria.
Burial’s success has brought with it imitators, but with this EP he’s outwitted them all by introducing a gloriously widened palate to his music that is both instantly familiar and shockingly unlikely. His sound is transformed, yet makes sense within his musical references. Remarkable.