Burial (Burial album)

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Burial Hyperdub.jpg
Studio album by
Released15 May 2006
Burial chronology
South London Boroughs

Burial is the debut studio album by London electronic producer Burial, released in 2006 on Kode9's Hyperdub label. Considered a landmark of the mid-2000s dubstep scene, the album's sound features a dark, emotive take on the UK rave music that preoccupied Burial in his youth,[2] including 2-step, jungle, and UK garage.[3] Critics have variously interpreted the release as an elegy for the dissipated rave movement and a sullen audio portrait of London.[4]

Burial received critical acclaim, with The Wire magazine naming it the record of the year in its annual critics' poll.[5] It was also ranked the year's fifth best album by Mixmag[6] and sixth by The Guardian.[7] It has been ranked among the best albums of the decade by Fact and Resident Advisor, and in 2013 it was ranked 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 as an adolescent, and listened to these types of music on his way to school. When he heard 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.[8] Burial was produced from 2001 to 2006[1] using the program Soundforge. Bevan began sending Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) letters and CD-Rs of his home-made music around 2002, having been a fan of the music featured on Goodman's Hyperdub website.[9] In 2005, the label released the South London Boroughs EP, which collected tracks recorded by Burial for several years prior.

As Burial describes the recording 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.[8] He went as so far as to call musicianship an "enemy of my tunes". 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."[8]


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".[10] 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 said pass "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.[11] 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,[8] as well as vocal samples that have been described as yearning[12] and ghostly.[3][13]

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."[14] Simon Reynolds' review in The Observer shared a similar sentiment, "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."[12] Reynolds categorized Burial as a concept album[15] and also said it "could almost be an audio essay about the London hardcore continuum",[4] 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.[15] He said 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."[15]

"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, low-rent areas 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."[15] 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, 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."[4]

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."[16] 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."[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[2]
Christgau's Consumer Guide(1-star Honorable Mention)[17]
The Guardian5/5 stars[13]
The Observer4/5 stars[12]
Q4/5 stars[19]
Resident Advisor4.5/5[3]
Stylus MagazineB+[20]
Tiny Mix Tapes5/5[21]

Burial was met with critical acclaim upon release. In a five-star review, The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey wrote that listeners would not "need to know a thing about London's dubstep scene to find this cryptic debut the most mesmerising electronic album of the year".[13] Simon Reynolds of The Guardian's sister paper, The Observer, highlighted the nervous sadness of the record that he thought would hurt and heal every listener.[12] Simon Pitchforth of Resident Advisor called it one of the year's best albums and "a classic of sustained urban atmospherics."[3] AllMusic journalist Jason Birchmeier labeled Burial 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.[2]

Sputnikmusic staff reviewer Nick Butler described Burial as "an experience that's probably quite unlike anything you've ever had" and felt that the album, while not the year's best, "was definitely top 10."[10] Todd Burns of Stylus Magazine called it an "occasionally great and always thrilling album", even out of the dubstep scene.[20] Tim Finney of Pitchfork felt that the album's ability to spin familiar music samples "into webs of torturous beauty" makes it a compelling listen, but also described it as "a brilliant EP padded out with sketches and noble failures", criticizing its inconsistency.[11] In a less enthusiastic review, Robert Christgau gave it as a one-star honorable mention rating, 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 highlights.[17]


Burial appeared on numerous year-end lists in 2006, including being named "Record of the Year" by The Wire magazine in its annual critics' poll.[5] 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",[22] while on Fact's list of the top records of that decade, it was number 22.[23] In another decade-end list from 2015, it got the eighth spot of Complex's "Best Self-Titled Albums Of The Last Decade".[24] As of 23 October 2013, it is number 391 on NME's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[25]

Publication Rank Ref
Collective * [26]
The Guardian 6 [7]
Idolator 49 [27]
Mixmag 5 [28]
The Observer 18 [29]
Playlouder 21 [30]
Q 77 [27]
Stylus Magazine 41 [31]
Uncut 20 [32]
The Wire 1 [5]
Complex 8 [24]
Fact 22 [23]
Resident Advisor 25 [22]
The Guardian (2007) * [33]
NME (2013) 391 [25]
Clash 24 [34]
"*" indicates an unordered list.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks but track 5 composed by William Bevan.[35]

  1. "Untitled" – 0:36
  2. "Distant Lights" – 5:26
  3. "Spaceape" (Bevan, Stephen Gordon) feat. Spaceape – 4:02
  4. "Wounder" – 4:52
  5. "Night Bus" – 2:20
  6. "Southern Comfort" – 5:02
  7. "U Hurt Me" – 5:23
  8. "Gutted" – 4:43
  9. "Forgive" – 3:07
    • Contains a sample from "An Ending (Ascent)" by Brian Eno.
  10. "Broken Home" – 5:05
    • Contains a sample from "Dry Cry" by Sizzla.
  11. "Prayer" – 3:46
    • Contains a drum loop sample from "Sometimes I Cry" by Les McCann
  12. "Pirates" – 6:10
  13. "Untitled" – 0:55


  1. ^ a b Burial (CD Back Cover Liner Notes). Burial. London, UK: Hyperdub. 2006. HDBCD001.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  2. ^ a b c Birchmeier, Jason. "Burial – Burial". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Pitchforth, Simon (27 August 2006). "Burial – Burial". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Reynolds, 2012. p. 515.
  5. ^ a b c "Rewind 2006: 50 Records of the Year". The Wire. No. 275. London. January 2007. p. 35 – via Exact Editions.
  6. ^ various critics (December 2006). "Best of 2006". Mixmag. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  7. ^ a b "The definitive top 10 albums of the year". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e "soundboy burial". Blackdown. 21 March 2006.
  9. ^ Telekom (14 May 2013). "Revolution9: An interview with Kode9 – Electronic Beats". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  10. ^ a b Butler, Nick (19 June 2007). "Burial – Burial". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Finney, Tim (21 June 2006). "Burial: Burial". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon (17 June 2006). "CD: Burial, Burial". The Observer. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  13. ^ a b c Lynskey, Dorian (21 December 2006). "Burial, Burial". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  14. ^ Derek Walmsley, "Dubstep", The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, ed. Rob Young, London: Verso, 2009, p. 92.
  15. ^ a b c d Reynolds, Simon (2012). Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Soft Skull Press. p. 514. ISBN 1593764073.
  16. ^ Hancox, Dan (25 October 2007). "'Only five people know I make tunes'". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  17. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Burial: Burial". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  18. ^ Madden, Joe (18 May 2006). "burial: burial (hyperdub)". Collective. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  19. ^ "Burial: Burial". Q (393): 117. January 2019.
  20. ^ a b Burns, Todd (26 May 2006). "Burial – Burial – Review". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  21. ^ P Funk. "Burial – Burial". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  22. ^ a b "Top 100 albums of the '00s". Resident Advisor. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  23. ^ a b "The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s". Fact. The Vinyl Factory. December 1, 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  24. ^ a b Khal (26 January 2015). "Burial – The Best Self-Titled Albums Of The Last Decade". Complex. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ "Albums of 2006". Collective. BBC. Archived from the original on 3 February 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  27. ^ a b "Burial". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  28. ^ "Best of 2006". Mixmag. December 2006. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  29. ^ Llewellyn Smith, Caspar (9 December 2006). "The Observer's best albums of the year". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  30. ^ "Top 50 Records of the Year". Playlouder. Archived from the original on 10 January 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  31. ^ "Stylus Magazine's Top 50 Albums of 2006". Stylus Magazine. 18 December 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Uncut's Top 50 Albums Of 2006". Stereogum. SpinMedia. 7 November 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  33. ^ "Artists beginning with B (part 2)". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  34. ^ "Clash Essential 50 – Number 10". Clash. Music Republic Ltd. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  35. ^ BMI.com Repertoire Search entry on artist "Burial". repertoire.bmi.com. Retrieved February 1, 2008.

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