Burial (Burial album)

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Burial Hyperdub.jpg
Studio album by Burial
Released 15 May 2006
Recorded 2001-2006[1]
Genre Dubstep, UK garage, 2-step, ambient
Length 51:24
Label Hyperdub
Producer Burial
Burial chronology

Burial is the debut studio album of dubstep producer Burial. It was released in 2006 on Kode9's Hyperdub records. The album's sound draws on various forms of UK rave music, including 2-step, jungle, and UK garage. It received critical acclaim, with The Wire magazine naming it their album of the year,[2] and its being ranked fifth in the Mixmag 2006 Album of the Year list[3] and eighteenth in the best of the year list of The Observer Music Monthly supplement.[4] As of October 2013, it is number 391 on NME's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".

Production and composition[edit]

William Bevan was very much into drum and bass and jungle, and listened to these types of music on his way to school. When he listened to the song "Special Mission" by producer Digital from the first Metalheadz box set released in 1997, that's when he realized that, while he wasn't really a "musician", and even as of 2006 he didn't consider himself a musician, he could make tracks like these without having to be one.[5]

Burial was produced from 2001 to 2006[1] using the program Soundforge. As Burial describes the process in an interview, "Once I change something, I can never un-change it. I can only see the waves. So I know when I’m happy with my drums because they look like a nice fishbone. When they look just skeletal as fuck in front of me, and so I know they’ll sound good." He also said that he didn't use a sequencer, because if his drums were timed too perfectly, they would "lose something" and "sound rubbish". The drums were a major focus of his while making the record, saying that, "I don’t find melodies catchy, I find drums catchy. When you have a bassline in your head for a day, you’re fucked. You can’t think." He also recorded himself drumming in case he forgot a beat he thought of, as he would often get kicked out of class for drumming on tables.[5]

Not using a sequencer would also help him with making every track very quickly and focusing more on the sorrow vibe of each track rather than how he could mess around with them. He went as so far as to call musicianship an "enemy" of all of his songs and criticizing the producers he admired for going, "all ‘musician’ on me and just produc[ing] shit, not underground." Burial claimed he went for a sad feel with the album because it's what the old records he listened had: "once you’ve got a vocal sample over sub and drums, you don’t have much choice with the rest of the elements. It’s basically a Source Direct thing: it’s pure darkness but all the elements circle. You hear something and you know at another point in the tune it’s going to circle back around."[5]


Critic Simon Reynolds categorized Burial as a concept album[6] and also said it "could almost be an audio essay about the London hardcore continuum",[7] as it follows South London flooded New Orleans-style due to global warming. He notes this situation similar to the novel The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, a science fiction author who is a common reference point in discussions regarding dubstep.[6] He saids that the setting of the LP is localized using titles like "South London Boroughs" and "Southern Comfort", which are two tracks where their "rippling canopies of amorphous sorrow-sound do for SE19 what Gas's Königsforst did for the woodlands near Cologne."[6] "Night Bus", instrumentated with a "beat-free Gorecki-like waft of mournful strings", represents the sadness of when Londoners, after clubbing, go through difficult public transport options because they're unable to afford cabs back to Zones three, four, five or six, which are low-rent areas for where they reside. This gloom is offset by the romance and greatness of the city as seen from a top deck, "neon twinkling like a recumbent Milky Way."[6] According to Reynolds, the album also regards the "keep-the-faith conservatism" in dubstep which Mark Fisher argued was a requiem or funeral tribute for the culture of rave music, an example being "Gutted", which includes a faltering yet stoic low-key male vocal sample declaring, "me and him, we're from different, ancient tribes ... now we're both almost extinct ... sometimes ... you gotta stick with the ancients ... old school ways."[7]

Sputnikmusic review Nick Butler described Burial as "claustrophobic, nervous, and at times, scary", but also occasionally "gorgeous", like on "Forgive" which he called "heartbreakingly beautiful" yet "painfully minimal".[8] Reynolds' review in The Observer share a similar sediment, "There's a simmering, suppressed violence bubbling inside Burial's music which conjures images of a city full of damaged people ready to inflict damage on others. But there's also a hovering grace and tenderness that makes me think of Wim Wenders's film Wings of Desire - a quality that emerges most clearly on 'Forgive', a beatless ache of sound threaded with the sounds of cleansing rainfall."[9]

Pitchfork Media critic Tim Finney noted the beats to be reminiscent of the playfulness of 2-step, except that the rhythms sound more nervous than joyful, and have a fast-running insubstantiality that brings to mind the fear and dread of dubstep. Lugubrious synths are played over these beats, which Finney saids passes "over one another like successive waves of blue and purple rainclouds." He also noted this raincloud effect to be similar to techstep made by artists of Parasol Records sub-label Hidden Agenda or producer Dom & Roland in the late 1990s.[10] Crackles of pirate radio and vinyl, as well as actual recordings of rain and fire, which Burial opined "would put most electronica producers to shame they’re so fucking heavy", are present on the album,[5] as well as vocal samples that have been described as yearning[9] and ghostly.[11][12] According to journalist Derek Walmsley, "a melancholy tinge runs through the album, but the constant interplay of tension and calm, and of alienation and intimacy, offers the possibility of salvation around the next corner."[13]

Release and artwork[edit]

Burial was released on the Hyperdub label in May 2006. William Bevan has said in interviews that he never expected anyone to hear the album: "I was buzzing, totally buzzing. But I had to hide that feeling, I didn't really have anyone to tell, apart from my brothers and my family - but that was all that mattered to me."[14] The album artwork is by Burial, and includes an aerial view of South London around the area of Wandsworth Prison and the intersection of Trinity Road and Windmill Road; "That’s what I wanted. Epic… distant lights. I love this film called Nil By Mouth by Gary Oldman because it’s the only film I’ve ever seen anyone get London properly in it, which is just distant lights, down the end of your road. That vibe, but then sometimes I don’t love it."[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[15]
Robert Christgau (1-star Honorable Mention)[16]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[12]
The Observer 4/5 stars[9]
Pitchfork Media 8/10[10]
Resident Advisor 4.5/5[11]
Sputnikmusic 4/5[8]
Stylus Magazine B+[17]
Tiny Mix Tapes 5/5 stars[18]

Burial was met with critical acclaim upon release. Two five-out-of-five reviews came from The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey and Tiny Mix Tapes critic P Funk, with the former writing that "You don't need to know a thing about London's dubstep scene to find this cryptic debut the most mesmerising electronic album of the year"[12] and the latter opining that with less impressive works from Kode9 and Skream released at the time, "it's apparent that this album does indeed have something special going."[18] The Guardian's sister paper, The Observer, had a four-out-of-five-star review of the record by Simon Reynolds, who highlghted the nervous sadness of the record that he thought would hurt and heal every listener.[9] Simon Pitchforth of Resident Advisor also called it one of the year's best albums in his 4.5-out-of-five review, concluding the review with calling it "a classic of sustained urban atmospherics."[11]

Allmusic journalist Jason Birchmeier labeled it as the "first great dubstep album", writing that while other dubstep producers have built a dark and emotive style similar to Burial's, he was the first to do it on a full-length LP so effectively.[15] Sputnikmusic staff reviewer Nick Butler disagreed with most other critics as being the best album of 2006, but said it would it be worthy of being in the top ten of a year-end list.[8] Tim Finney, in his eight-out-of-ten review for Pitchfork Media, wrote that how the album "spins [many familiar music samples] into webs of torturous beauty" is what made it so compelling to listen. However, he did also describe it as "a brilliant EP padded out with sketches and noble failures", writing that its inconsistency is what caused it to be not as good as its best moments.[10] Todd Burns of Stylus Magazine graded the album a B+, calling it an "occasionally great and always thrilling album", even out of the dubstep scene.[17] In a less enthusiastic review, Robert Christgau rated it as a one-star honorable mention, writing that "Maybe [Burial] figured get your beats working first and later for humanism--or maybe he still had a ways to go in the humanity department", while citing "Southern Comfort" and "Broken Home" as the album's highlights.[16]


Burial was on numerous year-end lists in 2006, including being named "Album of the Year" in January 2007 by The Wire magazine.[19] It was ranked number 25 on Resident Advisor's list of the best albums of the 2000s, calling it "a revolutionary record in the way that it influenced dubstep sounds and reinvented 2-step for an entirely different generation",[11] while on Fact's list of the top records of that decade, it was number 22.[20] In another decade-end list from 2015, it got the eighth spot of Complex's "Best Self-Titled Albums Of The Last Decade".[21] As of 23 October 2013, it is number 391 on NME's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[22]

Publication Rank Ref
Collective * [23]
The Guardian 6 [24]
Idolator 49 [25]
Mixmag 5 [26]
The Observer 18 [27]
Playlouder 21 [28]
Q 77 [25]
Stylus Magazine 41 [29]
Uncut 20 [30]
The Wire 1 [19]
Complex 8 [21]
Fact 22 [20]
Resident Advisor 25 [11]
The Guardian (2007) * [31]
NME (2013) 391 [22]
Clash 24 [32]
"*" indicates an unordered list.
Preceded by
Lost and Safe by The Books
The Wire's Record of the Year
Succeeded by
Comicopera by Robert Wyatt

Track listing[edit]

All tracks but track 5 composed by William Bevan.[33]

  1. "Untitled"
  2. "Distant Lights"
  3. "Spaceape" (Bevan, Stephen Gordon) feat. Spaceape
  4. "Wounder"
  5. "Night Bus"
  6. "Southern Comfort"
  7. "U Hurt Me"
    • Contains a sample from "Hunger", from the Black Hawk Down soundtrack (2002).
    • Contains a vocal sample from "Foolish" by Ashanti.
  8. "Gutted"
  9. "Forgive"
    • Contains a sample from "An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno.
  10. "Broken Home"
    • Contains a sample from "Dry Cry" by Sizzla.
  11. "Prayer"
    • Contains a drum loop sample from "Sometimes I Cry" by Les McCann
  12. "Pirates"
  13. "Untitled"


  1. ^ a b Burial (CD Back Cover Liner Notes). Burial. London, UK: Hyperdub. 2006. HDBCD001. 
  2. ^ various critics (October 2006). "Rewind 2006". The Wire (275). Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  3. ^ various critics (December 2006). "Best of 2006". Mixmag. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  4. ^ The OMM's best albums of 2006. Blogs.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  5. ^ a b c d e "soundboy burial". Blackdown. 21 March 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. p. 514. ISBN 1593764073. 
  7. ^ a b Reynolds, 2012. p. 515.
  8. ^ a b c Butler, Nick (19 June 2007). "Burial - Burial (album review)". Sputnikmusic.
  9. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon (17 June 2006). "CD: Burial, Burial". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Finney, Tim (21 June 2006). "Burial: Burial". Pitchfork Media.
  11. ^ a b c d e Pitchforth, Simon (27 August 2006). "Burial - Burial". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 15 August 2015.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ResidA" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  12. ^ a b c Lynskey, Dorian (21 December 2006). "Burial, Burial". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  13. ^ Derek Walmsley, "Dubstep", The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, ed. Rob Young, London: Verso, 2009, p. 92.
  14. ^ Hancox, Dan (25 October 2007). "'Only five people know I make tunes'". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Birchmeier, Jason. "Burial - Burial". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation.
  16. ^ a b "CG: Burial". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Burns, Todd (26 May 2006). "Burial - Burial". Stylus Magazine.
  18. ^ a b P Funk. "Burial - Burial". Tiny Mix Tapes.
  19. ^ a b The Wire #275 (January 2007) page 36.
  20. ^ a b "The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s". Fact. The Vinyl Factory. December 1, 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Khal (26 January 2015). "Burial - The Best Self-Titled Albums Of The Last Decade". Complex. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time: 400-301". NME. Inspire. 23 October 2013. Archived from the original on 24 June 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Albums of 2006". Collective. BBC. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  24. ^ "The definitive top 10 albums of the year". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  25. ^ a b "Burial". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  26. ^ "Best of 2006". Mixmag. December 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Llewellyn Smith, Caspar (9 December 2006). "The Observer's best albums of the year". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "Top 50 Records of the Year". Playlouder. Archived from the original on 10 January 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  29. ^ "Stylus Magazine's Top 50 Albums of 2006". Stylus Magazine. 18 December 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  30. ^ "Uncut’s Top 50 Albums Of 2006". Stereogum. SpinMedia. 7 November 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  31. ^ "Artists beginning with B (part 2)". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  32. ^ "Clash Essential 50 - Number 10". Clash. Music Republic Ltd. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  33. ^ BMI.com Repertoire Search entry on artist "Burial". repertoire.bmi.com. Retrieved February 1, 2008.

External links[edit]