Burial (musician)

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Birth name William Emmanuel Bevan
Origin South London, England, United Kingdom
  • Record producer
  • musician
Instruments Personal computer[1]
Years active 2001–present[2]
Labels Hyperdub
Associated acts

William Emmanuel Bevan,[3][4] known by his recording alias Burial, is an electronic recording artist from South London. Bevan was the first artist signed to Kode9's electronic label Hyperdub, and initially remained anonymous behind his pseudonym. Drawing inspiration from 90's UK rave music and pirate radio culture, he released his eponymous debut album in 2006, for which he won widespread acclaim,[5] including the album of the year award by The Wire.[6] Burial's second album, Untrue, was released to critical acclaim in 2007.[7] In 2008, Bevan's identity was revealed by The Independent. In recent years, he has gone on to collaborate with artists such as Four Tet, Massive Attack, and Thom Yorke in addition to having released a series of acclaimed long-form EPs.


Early career: self-titled debut and Untrue[edit]

Bevan grew up a fan of old school jungle and garage, having been introduced to UK rave music by his older brothers. Despite never having attended a rave himself, he remained preoccupied by the music:

I was brought up on old jungle tunes and garage tunes that had lots of vocals in but me and my brothers loved intense, darker tunes too, I found something I could believe in... but sometimes I used to listen to the ones with vocals on my own and it was almost a secret thing [...] I’ve never been to a festival. Never been to a rave in a field. Never been to a big warehouse, never been to an illegal party, 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 ‘em. 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...[8]

Bevan began sending Steve Goodman (a.k.a. Kode9) letters and CD-Rs of his home-made music around 2001, 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. Burial's self-titled 2006 debut album was the first full-length release on Hyperdub. Despite early acclaim, Burial initially remained anonymous, and said in an early interview that "only five people know I make tunes".[10] In February 2008, The Independent reported that Burial was an alumnus of South London's Elliott School.[3][11] The school's alumni also include Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet), with whom Bevan has collaborated.

On 22 July 2008, The Guardian reported that Burial was a nominee for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize for his second album, Untrue.[12] There was much Mercury Prize-related coverage in tabloid newspapers in the UK, including speculation that Burial was either Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) or Norman Cook.[13][14] The Independent eventually reported Burial's identity as William Bevan, a resident of South London. Bevan eventually confirmed the information and posted a picture of himself on his MySpace page on 5 August 2008. A blog entry stated, "I'm a lowkey person and I just want to make some tunes", as well as announcing a forthcoming four-track 12″, and thanking his fans for their support up to this point. On 9 September 2008, Elbow won the award in question.

Post-Untrue work[edit]

Rather than releasing a third album, Burial has spent the years since Untrue releasing increasingly lengthy and more experimental individual tracks. This began with Moth / Wolf Cub, a collaboration with Four Tet, and Burial's own track Fostercare and EP Street Halo. He then developed this practice, experimenting with multi-part suites rather than conventional songs on a Massive Attack collaboration and subsequent solo EPs Kindred, Truant / Rough Sleeper and Rival Dealer. Each of these EPs was met with critical acclaim, with Kindred being singled out in particular as a landmark release.[15][16][17]

On 10 February 2010 Massive Attack's Daddy G[18] said they were planning a remix album with Burial regarding their latest release Heligoland.

On 10 October 2011 Massive Attack announced the release of a 12-inch single in collaboration with Burial with the two tracks "Four Walls" and "Paradise Circus". Massive Attack posted the track "Four Walls" on their website. The record, with sleeve designed by Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja (3D), was limited to 1000 copies and sold out on the first day of pre-sale.[19][20]

In 2014 Burial uploaded a photograph of himself accompanied with a message for his fans promising new music on Hyperdub's website.[21] In 2015 Burial released a new single "Temple Sleeper" on Keysound Recordings.

Rumoured live appearance[edit]

There was speculation that Burial played his first live show at Unsound Festival, Krakow on 15 October 2015 during its Surprise-themed edition, featuring many unannounced artists. The show at the Wieliczka Salt Mine featured recent Burial music, as well as what sounded like unreleased material from the artist, but it was not clear where the performer was situated. Music journalist Louis Pattison was among the first to live Tweet that Burial might be performing,[22] with media immediately picking up the story.[23] Hyperdub Records responded on Twitter by saying that it "must be Kode9",[24] who in turn denied that he performed to Pitchfork's Philip Sherburne.[25] He later told the Fader's Aimee Cliff that "Burial has never performed live or DJ'd, was not at Unsound, and has no plans to play anywhere in the future".[26] Unsound Festival didn't comment on the situation, leaving the artist profile blank, which led to continuing speculation about the event.

Sound and composition[edit]

Bevan claims to compose nearly all his music in SoundForge, a digital audio editor, and to eschew the use of trackers and sequencers. As he 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". Discussing his rhythmic affinities in an interview with writer Mark Fisher, Burial stated that:

Something happens when I hear the subs, the rolling drums and vocals together. To me it’s like a pure UK style of music, and I wanted to make tunes based on what UK underground hardcore tunes mean to me, and I want a dose of real life in there too, something people can relate to.[27]

Of his production techniques, journalist Derek Walmsley wrote in The Wire:

An excerpt from 'Ghost Hardware', demonstrating Burial's use of crackle, shuffle, and manipulated vocal samples.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Burial decided at the outset to avoid at all costs the rigid, mechanistic path that eventually brought drum 'n' bass to a standstill. To this end, his percussion patterns are intuitively arranged on the screen rather than rigidly quantized, creating minute hesitations and slippages in the rhythm. His snares and hi-hats are covered in fuzz and phaser, like cobwebs on forgotten instruments, and the mix is rough and ready rather than endlessly polished. Perhaps most importantly, his basslines sound like nothing else on Earth. Distorted and heavy, yet also warm and earthy, they resemble the balmy gust of air that precedes an underground train.[28]


Main article: Burial discography

Studio albums[edit]



  1. ^ Fisher, Mark.Burial: Unedited Transcript Wire magazine. Retrieved on 21 January 2007.
  2. ^ Burial (CD Back Cover Notes). Burial. London, UK: Hyperdub. 2006. HDBCD001. 
  3. ^ a b Brown, Jonathan; Lucy Kinnear (11 February 2008). "The real school of rock". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  4. ^ "The Top 50 Albums of 2013". Pitchfork Media. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  5. ^ IMO Records "Burial Biography", IMO Records, London, 20 October 2011. Retrieved on 22 November 2011.
  6. ^ various critics (October 2006). "Rewind 2006". The Wire (275). Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  7. ^ Best Albums of 2007. Metacritic.com. Retrieved on 2012-10-02.
  8. ^ The Wire
  9. ^ Electronic Beats
  10. ^ Hancox, Dan. "Only five people know I make tunes". The Guardian, 26 October 2007. Retrieved on 21 January 2008.
  11. ^ Parkin, Chris (2 October 2006). "Hot Chip: interview". Time Out London. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  12. ^ Mercury Prize Nominations. Blogs.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  13. ^ "Help me dig up the real Burial". The Sun. 6 August 2008. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  14. ^ Sisson, Patrick (18 January 2010). "Pitchfork interviews Four Tet". Pitchfork Media. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  15. ^ Burial – Truant / Rough Sleeper | The Skinny TheSkinny.com. Retrieved on 2013-12-13
  16. ^ Metacritic - Burial's Scores Metacritic.com. Retrieved on 2013-12-13
  17. ^ Burial – Album Reviews | Pitchfork Media Pitchfork.com. Retrieved on 2013-12-13
  18. ^ ClashMusic–Massive Attack. Clashmusic.com (2009-10-02). Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  19. ^ Four Walls – Massive Attack vs Burial ltd. edition 12″ « Massive Attack Blog. Massiveattack.com. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  20. ^ Four Walls / Paradise Circus – Massive Attack vs Burial – The VinylFactory Editions Shop. Vfeditions.com. Retrieved on 2011-11-23.
  21. ^ Battan, Carrie (31 January 2014). "Burial Posts Selfie and Long Note Teasing New Music". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 September 2014. 
  22. ^ https://twitter.com/louispattison/status/654717110833143810
  23. ^ http://www.factmag.com/2015/10/15/did-burial-just-play-unsound/
  24. ^ https://twitter.com/Hyperdub/status/654752175214620673
  25. ^ http://pitchfork.com/features/photo-galleries/9740-buried-alive-unlocking-the-mysteries-of-polands-unsound-festival/
  26. ^ http://www.thefader.com/2015/10/16/burial-did-not-play-unsound
  27. ^ The Wire
  28. ^ Derek Walmsley, "Dubstep", The Wire Primers: A Guide to Modern Music, ed. Rob Young, London: Verso, 2009, p. 92.

External links[edit]