Untrue

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Untrue
Studio album by Burial
Released 5 November 2007
Recorded 2006–07
Genre Dubstep, UK garage, 2-step garage, trip hop[1][2][3][4]
Length 50:28 (CD)
39:44 (vinyl)
Label Hyperdub
Producer Burial
Burial chronology
Burial
(2006)
Untrue
(2007)
Street Halo
(2011)
Singles from Untrue
  1. "Archangel"
    Released: 2007
  2. "Ghost Hardware"
    Released: 10 December 2007

Untrue is the second studio album by British electronic music producer Burial. Released on 5 November 2007 through Hyperdub, the album was produced by Burial from 2006 to 2007 using digital audio editing software. Whilst retaining several elements of his past work, including his debut album Burial (2006), Untrue marked a development in Burial's sound through its more prominent utilisation of pitch-shifted and time-stretched vocal samples. The album also contains influences of Burial's own musical tastes, most notably the UK garage and hardcore music genres.

The album received rave reviews from music critics, who commended Burial's production and use of samples to create a unique atmosphere. In addition, several critics cited the album as an improvement over his previous releases. Untrue later appeared in several publications' lists of the year's best albums and received nominations for the Mercury Prize and the Shortlist Music Prize. It charted at numbers 57 and 58 in Belgium and the United Kingdom respectively and produced two singles, "Archangel" and "Ghost Hardware". Since its release, Untrue has been viewed as a landmark album in the dubstep genre.

Background and production[edit]

Following the release of his 2006 self-titled debut album, Burial began work on a second studio album.[3] He had felt some pressure to follow up Burial, and worked several hours a day creating new songs and learning how to use new sound-editing programs.[3] The musician produced various songs which he described as "dark", but ultimately scrapped the material because he grew tired of them from the long hours he spent on their production.[3] Burial then decided to take a new direction in producing the album; instead of spending long periods of time working on individual songs, he sought to "make a glowing, buzzing album, do it really fast; to cheer [himself] up."[5] He also desired to capture the essence of his musical preferences—aiming to make tracks based on what UK hardcore music meant to him—while at the same time incorporating "a dose of real life... something people can relate to."[3]

Speaking of the album's recording process, Burial stated: "I would sit around waiting for night to fall, wait for summer to end. Or I would go out, wait for it to get dark, and then I'd go back and work on it, sort of hypnotise myself."[5] Many of the songs on Untrue were produced "in the dead of the night."[6] Burial also expressed a desire to add vocals to the songs on Untrue;[3] in the absence of a proper session vocalist, he instead had friends sing over the phone and utilised samples of acapellas, editing individual words to form sentences.[6] Burial produced the entirety of the album with the digital audio editor Sound Forge.[3]

Composition[edit]

Raw, rolling drums and sub is the sound I love... and if you don't get that then you won't ever get it.

— Burial, late 2007[7]

Untrue, categorised as a dubstep album and described as a tribute to UK garage,[8] retains several musical elements which marked the sound of Burial, including heavy use of sampling and Burial's trademark skipped drum patterns.[4][5] However, Untrue sets itself apart from Burial's past work through a greater prominence of pitch-shifted and time-stretched vocals in its tracks.[4][9] Burial's sampling has been described as "a careful mix of pitch-shifting vocoders and delay/echo effects."[2] Throughout the album's run time, the use of beats is varied; Jon Jolley, writing for Tiny Mix Tapes, writes that throughout the album's run time "the beat is [brought] to the front, [dragged] to the back, and sometimes eliminated completely."[2] Tracks such as "Archangel" and "Near Dark" feature uptempo, skittering beats,[10] while tracks on the "verging-on-beatless" middle section of the album, including the ambient interludes "Endorphin" and "In McDonalds",[2] place emphasis on isolated vocal samples overlaid on ambience.[11] The downbeat "Shell of Light" incorporates piano, string instruments, and rain sound effects.[4] The mix of vocals and skipped drum patterns on Untrue has been called reminiscent of 2-step garage and early jungle music.[5]

The track features pitch-shifted samples of a voice singing "You lied."[2]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Dan Hancox of The Guardian noted that while Untrue is "still distinctly DIY, some of the melancholy of Burial's debut has dissipated on this new album, which is more heavily loaded with garage-inflected vocals, and more upbeat as a consequence."[5] Dave Stelfox of The Village Voice expressed a similar sentiment, noting a "shift from dystopian melancholy to restrained optimism."[12] Critics have noted that the increased emphasis on vocal effects on Untrue over his previous works contributes to its more emotional nature.[2] Pitchfork Media's Philip Sherburne wrote that Untrue is "not a pop album, at least not by Top 40 standards, but his voices—male, female, and ambiguous—wriggle deep into the listener's consciousness."[4] Some of the album's songs also explore specific topics; "Archangel" was composed by Burial after the death of his pet dog,[3] while the album's closing track "Raver" has been interpreted as a commentary about the death of the British rave scene.[11]

Release[edit]

On 17 October 2007, Scottish musician and Hyperdub label owner Kode9 appeared as a guest on the BBC programme Radio 1's Experimental Show, where he played several tracks from Untrue.[13] Following much anticipation, Untrue was released by Hyperdub on 5 November 2007.[14] It was released as thirteen-track Digipak CD and a nine-track double vinyl LP on which some beatless pieces were edited out.[15] Untrue debuted at number 121 on the UK Albums Chart for the week ending 17 November 2007.[16] In the Belgian region of Flanders, Untrue spent one week at number 57 on the Ultratop 50 albums chart.[17] It fared better on the Ultratop Alternative Albums chart, where it remained for eight weeks and peaked at number 23.[17]

Hyperdub issued "Archangel" as the album's first single, and it peaked at number 21 on the Flanders Ultratip singles chart.[18] "Ghost Hardware", which had previously been released on the Burial EP of the same name in June 2007, was made available for free download in the United Kingdom as the iTunes Store single of the week on 10 December 2007.[19] Untrue was later nominated for the Mercury Prize and experienced a 1004% sales increase in the week following the awards ceremony,[20] allowing it to re-enter the UK Albums Chart and reach a new peak of number 58.[21] The critical and commercial success of Untrue prompted Burial, whose identity until then had been anonymous, to disclose his real name and give out interviews to the media.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[23]
Robert Christgau A[1]
Drowned in Sound 9/10[24]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[25]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[4]
PopMatters 9/10[26]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[9]
Spin 9/10[27]
Tiny Mix Tapes 5/5 stars[2]
URB 4.5/5 stars[28]

Upon release, Untrue was widely acclaimed by music critics.[29] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 90, based on 23 reviews.[30] In a five-star review, Chris Mann of Resident Advisor wrote that Untrue "lays another strong claim to Burial being the most innovative and expressive artist not only in dubstep, but in the whole of electronic music."[11] Jason Birchmeier of AllMusic praised Untrue as "arguably even better than its predecessor" and cited it as an album "where the music... takes center stage with no distractions or sideshows, where there's never the urge to skip to the next track, because they're all part and parcel of the greater whole."[23] Writing for MSN Music, Robert Christgau described the album as "emotional, which helps its funk a lot, and eventful, which helps its interest even more."[1] Comparing Burial's "sonic imagination" to that of English musician Tricky, Christgau concluded his review on a positive note: "The moniker and, apparently, the worldview, are dark, as the kids say. But when the mix is as rich as this, dark goes to a better place."[1]

Tom King of Drowned in Sound branded Untrue as an improvement over Burial's debut, writing: "What gives this album more depth is the focus, the rolling symmetry and cinema."[24] PopMatters critic Tal Rosenberg felt that the "seamlessness" of Untrue distinguished it from his past work and advised listeners not to approach the album "as a dubstep record, but as a record, period."[26] Uncut published a more lukewarm review of Untrue, characterizing it as "altogether warmer than its predecessor."[31] Pitchfork Media's Philip Sherburne wrote that the album managed to retain the style and overall vibe of Burial and improve over it, describing it as a "deeper album—richer, more complex, more enveloping."[4] Sherburne praised Burial's use of vocal samples in particular.[4]

Accolades[edit]

Untrue appeared on numerous critics' year-end and decade-end top albums lists. Based on aggregated review scores, Untrue is ranked the most acclaimed album of 2007—tied with Swedish electronic music producer The Field's From Here We Go Sublime—by the review aggregate site Metacritic.[32] Sputnikmusic named it the best album of the year,[33] while it was ranked at number two by The Wire.[34] Untrue also placed within the top ten of year-end best album lists by Robert Christgau,[35] The Observer,[36] Pitchfork Media,[37] and Tiny Mix Tapes.[38] The album was nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2008, losing to English alternative rock band Elbow's The Seldom Seen Kid.[20] It was also nominated for a Shortlist Music Prize.[39]

Fact named Untrue the best album of the 2000s and stated that Burial "stripped UK garage of its twitchy micro-textures and created a fabulous new strain of future soul."[40] Resident Advisor listed it as the third best album of the decade, with reviewer Derek Miller calling it "a mastery of sample stitching".[41] Several other publications, including Pitchfork Media,[42] Slant Magazine,[43] and Stylus Magazine,[44] included Untrue in their decade-end lists of best albums. NPR named the album one of the 50 Most Important Recordings of the Decade.[45] Rolling Stone placed Untrue at number eleven on their list of the greatest EDM albums of all-time,[46] and Q listed it as one of three essential dubstep releases.[47]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written and produced by Burial.[48]

Samples

Charts[edit]

Chart (2007–08) Peak
position
Belgium Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[17] 57
Belgium Alternative Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[17] 23
UK Albums (OCC)[21] 58

References[edit]

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External links[edit]