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euphoric record, Burial agrees. “That was an older ” thing that UK underground music used to have. Old rave tunes used to be the masters of that, for a reason, to do with the rave, half human endorphins and half something hypnotised by drugs. It was stolen from us and it never really came back. Mates laugh at me because I like whale songs. But I love them, I like vocals to be like that, like a night cry, an angel animal. ” Burial instinctively knew that dubbing is about veiling the song, about reducing it to a tantalising tissue of traces, a virtual object all the more beguiling because of its partial desubstantialisation. The drizzly crackle that has become one of his sonic signatures is part of the veiling process. Selfdeprecatingly, he claims that he initially used the crackle to conceal “the fact that I wasn’t very good at making tunes” But he is not so much influenced . by dub as by the ‘vocal science’ developed by Jungle, Garage and two-step producers. When he and his brothers would listen to darkside Jungle, Burial found himself increasingly drawn to the vocal tracks. “I’d love these vocals that would come in, not proper singing but cut-up and repeating, and executed coldly. It was like a forbidden siren. I was into the cut-up singing as much as the dark basslines. Something happens when I hear the subs, the rolling drums and vocals together. So when I started doing tunes, I didn’t have the kit and I didn’t understand how to do it properly, so I couldn’t make the drums and bass sound massive, so as long as it had a bit of singing in it, it forgave the rest of the tune. Then I couldn’t believe that I’d done a tune that gave me that feeling that proper records used to, and the vocal was the one thing that seemed to take the tune to that place. My favourite tunes were underground and moody but with killer vocals: “Let Go” by Teebee, “Being With You Remix” by Foul Play, Intense, Alex Reece, Digital, Goldie, Dillinja, EL-B, D-Bridge, Steve Gurley. I miss being on the bus to school listening to DJ Hype mixes. ” New Labour Britain is intoxicated by consensual sentimentality, hooked on disposable simulated emotion. With the ubiquity of TV talent shows, religiose emoting has become a fast track to media recognition, secular UK’s equivalent of sanctification and salvation. In this process, singing has become almost incidental – it’s lachrymose back stories that the media really hungers for. Burial’s strategy with singing is exactly contrary to this: he removes voices from biography and narrative, transforming them into fluttering, flickering abstractions, angels liberated from the heavy weight of personal history. “I was listening to these Guy Called Gerald tunes, ” he says. “I wanted to do vocals but I can’t get a proper singer like him. So I cut up a cappellas and made different sentences, even if they didn’t make sense, but they summed up what I was feeling. In ” the process of changing the pitch of the vocals, buried signals come to light. “I heard this vocal and it doesn’t say it but it sounds like ‘archangel’, ” says Burial. “I like pitching down female vocals so they sound male, and pitching up male vocals so they sound like a girl singing. This is apt, as angels ” are supposed to be without gender. “Well that works nice with my tunes, kind of half boy half girl, he ” enthuses. “I understand that moody thing, but some dance music is too male. Some Jungle tunes had a balance, the glow, the moodiness that comes from the presence of both girls and boys in the same tune. There’s tension because it’s close, but sometimes perfect together. I look like her. I am her. ” Kode9 describes the album as “downcast euphoria” , and that seems to fit. “I wanted to make a half Angels, again. On Untrue, Burial’s ravers appear as downcast angels, beings of light exiled into the dull weight of the worldly. Untrue is like German director Wim Wenders’s 1987 Berlin film Wings Of Desire relocated to the UK: an audio vision of London as a city of betrayed and mutilated angels, their wings clipped. But angels also hover above the hopeless and the abandoned here. “My new tunes are about that, Burial agrees, “wanting an ” angel to be watching over you, when there’s nowhere to go and all you can do is sit in McDonalds late at night, not answering your phone. ” As you might expect, Burial’s attunement to angels, demons and ghosts goes back to childhood. “My dad when I was really little, he says, “sometimes ” he used to read me MR James stories. On the South Bank last year, I bunked off from my day job and I found a book of MR James ghost stories. The one that fucked me up when I was little was Oh, Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad. Something can betray how sinister it is even at a distance. Something weird happens with MR James, because even though it’s in writing, there’ll be a moment when the person meets the ghost, where you can’t quite believe what you’ve read. You go cold, just for those few lines when you glimpse the ghost for a second, or he describes the ghost face. It’s like you’re not reading any more. In that moment it burns a memory into you that isn’t yours. He says something like, ‘There’s nothing worse for a human being than to see a face where it doesn’t belong.’ But if you’re little, and you’ve got an imagination which is always messing you up and darking you out, things like that are almost comforting to read. “Also, he continues, “there is nothing worse than ” not recognising someone you know, someone close, family, seeing a look in them that just isn’t them. I was once in a lock-in in a pub and the regulars there and some mates started telling these fucked-up ghost stories from real life, maybe that had happened to them, and I swear if you heard them... One girl told me the scariest thing I ever heard. Some of these stories would stop a few words earlier than seemed right. They don’t play out like a film, they’re too simple, too everyday, slight. Those stories ring true and I never forgot them. Sometimes maybe you see ghosts. On the underground with an empty Costcutters plastic bag, nowhere to go, they are smaller, about 70 per cent smaller than a normal person, smaller than they were in life. ” Some of us have been arguing for the past couple of years that Jacques Derrida’s neologism ‘hauntology’ has a special purchase on the most important contemporary music. Of all the acts that have been called ‘hauntological’ – acts as diverse as Mordant

Music, The Caretaker, Ariel Pink, Little Axe, Philip Jeck – Burial makes the most convincing case that our zeitgeist is essentially hauntological. The power of Derrida’s concept lay in its idea of being haunted by events that had not actually happened, futures that failed to materialise and remained spectral. Burial craves something he never actually experienced first hand. “I’ve never been to a festival, a rave in a field, a big warehouse, or an illegal party, ” he says, “just clubs and playing tunes indoors or whatever. I heard about it, dreamed about it. My brother might bring back these records that seemed really adult to me and I couldn’t believe I had them. It was like when you first saw Terminator or Alien when you’re only little. I’d get a rush from it, I was hearing this other world, and my brother would drop by late and I’d fall asleep listening to tunes he put on. It was his older brother who made rave a kind ” of ‘present absence’ in Burial’s life, a space to be filled with yarns and yearnings. “He loved tunes, rave tunes, Jungle, Burial tells me. “He lived all that ” stuff, and he was gone, he was on the other side of the night. We were brought up on stories about it: leaving the city in a car and finding somewhere and hearing these tunes. He would sit us down and play these old tunes, and later on he’d play us “Metropolis” Reinforced, Paradox, DJ Hype, Foul , Play, DJ Crystl, Source Direct and Techno tunes. ” The rave relics feed a hunger for escape. “I respect working hard but I dread a day job, asserts Burial. ” “Or a job interview. I’ve got a truant heart, I just want to be gone. I’d be in the kitchens, the corridors at work, and I’d be staring at the panels on the roof, clocking all the maintenance doors, dreaming about getting into the airducts. A portal. As a kid I used to dream about being put in the bins, escaping from things, without my mum knowing she’d put me out in the bins. So I’m in a black plastic bag outside a building and hearing the rain against it, but feeling all right, and just wanting to sleep, and a truck would take me away. A too quick psychoanalytic reading ” would hear this as a thinly coded wish to return to the womb – and Burial’s warm bass certainly feels enwombing – but that would be to ignore the desire to flee that is also driving this fantasy. Burial wants out, but he cannot positively characterise what lies beyond. “We all dream about it, he says. “I wish ” something was there. But even if you fight to see it, you never see anything. You don’t have a choice. You’d be on the way to a job, but you’re longing to go down this other street, right there, and you walk past it. No force on Earth could make you go down there, because you’ve got to traipse to wherever. Even if you escape for a second, people are on your case, you can’t go down old Thames side and throw your mobile in. ” But there are always flickers and flashes of the other side. After-images. “I used to get taken away to the middle of nowhere, by the sea, concludes Burial. ” “I love it out there, because when it’s dark, it’s totally dark, there’s none of this ambient light London thing. We used to have to walk back and hold hands and use a lighter. See the light, see where you were and then you’d walk on, and the image of where you’ve just been would still be on your retina.  Untrue is ” out now on Hyperdub

burial The Wire 31

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