At first, and I think by design, Burial’s new EP is absolutely overwhelming. He’s used break-beat, rapid drum breaks and atypical rhythm backing before, but it hasn’t felt so “in your face” until now. Burial’s music usually works well as an audio backdrop to everyday life (this), and the songs have been set up like a choice. With “Rival Dealer,” the listener is offered no such options. The first time I played it, I had intended to listen to it while I was cooking. Roughly eight minutes after hitting play, I realized I hadn’t moved. I was just standing there, staring at my computer speakers waiting for whatever happened next.
When the thrashing, grimy industrial assault of the title track is over, there’s still nearly three minutes left of a different song altogether. It’s like floating in a pool of water after running a couple miles as fast as you can while screaming at the top of your lungs. But in a good way. This segues nicely into the down-tempo ‘Hiders,’ a more familiar, a more orderly and atmospheric Burial.
It took me a few listens to realize the two lines that were drawn to cut this into three songs were most likely arbitrary, because it seems like there’s actually 5-6 distinct songs in the 29 minutes of music. Those kind of things don’t seem to matter with Burial, as there’s no push for a single of any kind, so this should be taken as a whole piece of work instead of separate components.
The final thirteen minute ‘song’ starts out like a bad dream, a hypnotizing repetition of strings and samples that seem to echo a feeling of loneliness for several minutes before shifting into a build of quieter, more simple and hopeful strings. The work ends with a sample from a speech by a transgender person talking about their realization of what it was that made them so different from the people around them, about finding the reason that they feel the way they do. The EP seems like a similarly uneasy, tumultuous experience of figuring out the world around you when you don’t feel like you fit anywhere.