Burial is the first great dubstep album, legitimizing a style -- a generally dark, emotive, and faceless dub offshoot of 2-step -- that had thus far been confined to 12" vinyl and the underground club scene. Even though a couple of the tracks ("Southern Comfort," "Broken Home") had been previously released on the South London Boroughs EP (2005), Burial doesn't sound like a compilation of one-off productions to date, as is often the case with music of this kind. It's a true album, a unified collection of songs similar in style as well as mood yet also distinct enough from one another to remain engaging over the course of 13 tracks in 51 minutes. As if it were a well-selected mix album, Burial flows well from one track to the next; the exception is "Spaceape," the only song featuring a vocalist (and unfortunately sequenced third, disrupting the flow just as it begins). While some tracks stand out ("Distant Lights," "Southern Comfort," "Gutted," "Broken Home"), they're interspersed by low-key tracks such as "Night Bus" and "Forgive" that enhance the overall mood and space out the highlights. As the hazy, mostly black cover art of the album (a nighttime aerial photograph of South London) suggests, the mood of Burial is dim, distant, and rather dreary; from a subjective standpoint, one might characterize it as the sound of 3:00 a.m., a time of reflection and perhaps remorse, of being alone after the party's come to an end. There is an emotional aspect at work that is key to this mood, a sullen sense of despair especially evident in the ambient interludes, communicated also in the ghostly vocal samples. The technical aspect of Burial is remarkable, too. The album's subterranean basslines and skittering rhythms, along with its array of found sounds and production effects, are simple yet inventive, austere yet evocative. Other dubstep producers have crafted a similar style, make no mistake, but Burial is the first to craft it on the scale of a full-length album so effectively.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: The Spaceape