For the next few days, several people whose reflections on music — whose enthusiasm and insight — I admire have signed on to do in public what I, for one, have been doing in private for a week-plus now: playing over and over, as well as pondering, the recent two-song 12″ by Burial and Four Tet, a pair of songs (“Moth,” “Wolf Cub”), released on the Text Records label earlier this month.
Joining me are:
- Robert Gable is a listener and musical enthusiast who has been blogging at aworks (rgable.typepad.com) about “new” American classical music since 2003. Earlier, he played jazz saxophone and blues harp until realizing he would always pale in comparison to Sonny Rollins and Little Walter. He works for a company that develops software and hardware IP used in multimedia devices.
- Lauren Giniger is possessed by a deadly sense of the absurd and so is often paralyzed when composing her biography. When she is able to get over herself, she can be found organizing large productions, most recently including the 24th annual World Jewish Music Festival. She lives with two adorable rabbits; her current project is developing a vaccine to fight the overblown and imaginary scourge of lagomorph influenza. Also, she occasionally write about music for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
- Alan Lockett is a sometime writer of electronic music reviews/features. Previously a contributor to e/i magazine, recent writings are mainly viewable via igloomag.com and furthernoise.org. His main interests are in ambient, drone, and the more experimental end of techno/house, post-dub, and “IDM.” He is based in Bristol, UK — a useful vantage point in being a breeding ground for stylistic tweaks which have impacted crucially in recent decades.
You can listen to streaming versions of the two tracks here, which I first came upon at pitchfork.com.
The discussion will play out in the comments section below.
Burial/Four Tet’s “Wolf Cub”
Burial/Four Tet’s “Moth”
PS: This is not, per a reader’s inquiry, a closed discussion, so do feel free to join in. And for anyone reading this after May 19, for the first day the tracks below were mis-titled. Sorry about that.
PPS: Given the willful opaqueness of the “Moth”/”Wolf Cub” 12″ — it comes on black vinyl in a black sleeve — I looked around for how it was being visually represented. Directly below are three such representations via, from left to right, createdigitalmusic.com, which made the requisite Spinal Tap joke; stereogum.com, which described the release as “a black sleeve and pressed onto a slab of 12″ vinyl with a black label”; and residentadvisor.net, which ignores the package and fairly thoroughly describes the music in its write-up:
19 thoughts on “MP3 Discussion Group: Burial/Four Tet’s “Moth”/”Wolf Cub””
First off, let me declare an indifference to the bulk of the previous work of both of these two, despite all the trumpeting. Might serve to put my comments in some perspective. Second, surely this closes the ‘Is-Burial-Fourtet?’ blog-meme debate of several months back – or could it be more mischief from the perpetrator?! And third, there seems to be some confusion about which track is “Moth” and which “Wolf Cub” (the release seems to be all black and bears no text to distinguish which is which). Note of caution, then: the version represented here (in the disquiet player) is by no means consensual if you look around the blogosphere.
Aaanyway, I’ll venture, to get the ball rolling, agent provocateur-stylee, that “Moth” (elsewhere ID-ed as “Wolf Cub”) sounds like the outcome of a hastily assembled ‘parts in the post’-exchange. Fourtet gets busy with the post-Reichian gamelan-isms, then Burial clunks in with those odd off-kilter 2step-gone-wonky beats of his; an orgy of chimes, claves, woodblocks, and percussive bing-y boing-iness ensues. Overall, the artist(s) seem(s) content to set up a stylistic mish-mash-up rather than effecting a satisfying fusion. I’ll give it an ‘interesting’ for now.
“Wolf Cub” (which some have tagged as “Moth”), on the other hand, sounds more ‘arranged’, though less spirited. Mood reminds a bit of the ‘mope-house’ vibe purveyed by Kompakt 4-5 years ago. Bring out the all-passion-spent walking home-at-5am-in-the-rain post-rave blues blah that surrounded the Burial album circa 06/07. In terms of the genre template, it’s a deliberate 4/4 plod with the merest hint of a 2-step skip overlaid with a tweaked and smeared distillate of an ambient house motif (I’m not the first to note the echoes in cadence to track #1 of Aphex Twin’s SAW 85–92). It doesn’t really do much but dwell on the motif and fiddle with it, then stir in some traces of those soul diva ghost sounds you’ll be familiar with (“Untrue” was crawling with ’em). Gawd, am I still typing? Colour me unimpressed. Over to someone else…
I came to this two-song release as someone who had never fully gotten the intense enthusiasm that Burial has earned (numerous album-of-the-year awards for his self-titled debut, for example), and as someone who heard in a good half of Four Tet’s substantial output something approaching serious goodness, if not outright greatness.
Four Tet’s album Rounds was one of my favorites the year it came out, back in 2003. I liked the way its rhythms were broken, the way its melodies were clipped and noisy, and the way it casually treated acoustic instruments (piano, guitar) as found artifacts.
And because Four Tet (aka Kieran Hebden) has been often at its/his best when working with others, I was hopeful that a dose of Hebden would bring me around to Burial. Folks whose taste and take I respect spoke and speak highly of Burial, but when I listen to his work I really can’t distinguish much of it from a darker shade of lounge music — and when I can distinguish it from just a darker shade of lounge music, I miss the whirling chaos and sonic sloppiness of what it has begun to pleasantly remind me of, the so-called “illbient” work that preceded dubstep.
Sometimes a cover or a collaboration can provide a lens on something that had previously be hiding in plain sight. I hoped that might happen here. And to some extent it did.
Before I get to that, when I think of Four Tet’s “collaborative” work, just to clarify, I mean it in the literal sense of the word (notably the stuff he’s done with drummer Steve Reid), and in the Information Age sense of the word, which is to say the asynchronous collaborations we call remixes — notably his early efforts on Pole and Cinemtatic Orchestra, later on Beth Orton and Steve Reich, and later still (if to a lesser extent) on Battles and Thom Yorke.
Burial was always more dub than step to me, more mood that beats, more texture than percussion. I’m no doubt falsely presuming that the sonic foundations here are his, and that the drums are Four Tet’s, but in any case, in brief, the percussion did help frame the dubby haze for me, and helped me appreciate the effort that went into its production.
That’s interesting that the exact correlation of name and track is something still up for debate. I wanna dig into the music itself here, and also the manner in which this set was packaged: a limited-availability, physical object in a day and age when everything of even remote note is seemingly reproduced and streaming within hours of its release.
Funny, I heard those first few twinkling repetitive gamelan figures of “Moth” and Terry Riley popped, unbidden, into my head. Then my computer stopped streaming about 2.3 minutes into the track. Without much more information, I thought this was an unusual direction for Burial to go to, but not necessarily a new direction for Four Tet.
With my stream resumed, and a full listen under my belt, I detected some maximal minimalism at play here. Maximal, as in what aesthetic consideration was in play for those first few minutes? Not everything has to be used, right writers? (Unless you’re typing in a blog, in which case one should feel free to proceed directly from brain to page. Kidding. Kinda.)
Is there more pressure to use more material in a collaboration? That beatless intro seems tacked on, and maybe one did spend a lot of cash on “parts-in-the-post”, but it’s a little incoherent. My favorite part of “Moth” is toward the middle when we hear texture, a bit of that scuzzed up beat, and those ghostly ambient whispers that seem now to be so central to Burial’s sound.
So ironically enough Marc, I flipped my assumptions — I thought the percussion is Burial’s work, and that Four Tet contributed to the prettier melodic figures.
Lots of good stuff to think about here, more tomorrow.
Just to get my biases out in the open…
I’m pretty much a Four Tet completist. I own most if not every CD. And although it is never as satisfying as I hope, the Kieran Hebdan/Steve Reid collaborations at least touch on the combination of jazz and electronics that may have reached its apex early on with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew or selected Weather Report.
Regarding Hebdan’s remixes, it’s been hit or miss. Beth Orton was good. the sweet acoustic guitar on the Caribou remix a fresh touch, but for stellar source material like Steve Reich or Radiohead, not at all illuminating.
On the other hand, in my own monomaniacal style, I’ve never heard of Burial until now. With American classical music, I feel compelled to listen to everything. With other genres, I only selectively listen to what I think I’ll like.
I’m also interested in whether the delivery mechanism/packaging impacts the reception of music’s aesthetics. I’d like to think not, although it surely does for corner cases e.g. no bass from a 78rpm record. Despite my collector tendencies, as long as the music is individually playable on demand, the mechanics of how that is done shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t meet those standards, but I heard Wolf for the first time this weekend by happenstance via a Four Tet Pandora station streamed through an iPod Touch.
As I understand it, this is a stream and vinyl release only. Although streaming is fine, I have a historical aversion to vinyl clicks pops, dust and Discwashers, scratches, bad belt drives etc. Strangely, the newest album I have was a freebie remix of Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid’s The Sun Never Sets that came with the related CD purchase.
I do wonder if music is not released in the currently dominant form i.e. CD, does it really exist? The answer is eventually yes, as we transition to new outlets, similar to how information has evolved http://www.baekdal.com/articles/Management/market-of-information/
And after listening…
I also hear the Terry Riley-ish opening in Wolf although it’s not as trance-inducing as the best improvisational stuff of Riley, although fortunately it also lacks the sometimes sloppy and hippie-ish aspects. Before the drums kick in, it starts to sound a little like Tangerine Dream ambience. Overall, the texture is not that interesting and the track never coheres into anything memorable.
The timbre of the repeated figure at the beginning of Wolf Cub has a distinctive, muffled feel. The initial beats and voice make it sound like a grafted remix, although over time it does cohere into something worth re-hearing even if it has nowhere near the genius of various sounds from Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works.
As a side note, I like the YouTube-derived music players.
Not sure whether this is a closed discussion but in case it’s not, here’s my initial reaction after a couple of listens.
Both tracks represent interesting territory: genre music venturing outside the parameters of the immediate scene, in this case dubstep. Another example of such a move would be Spring Heel Jack’s last work before their move into improv. Burial, like SHJ, is not a scene player: he’s said as much, his music doesn’t work well on the dancefloor, so thos move is not entirely surprising.
When the loops kicks in at 3.15 on Moth I’m reminded of Jon Hassell’s Aka Darbari Java and again at the breakdown towards the end. Hassell has always studiously avoided generic beats and thus avoided the stylistic redundancy of acolytes like Nils Petter Molvaer. How much mileage there is in the extension of UKG rhythms into this territory is debatable, but there is a chance that if they continue to push the boundaries together they may raise this out of oddity and into something more significant.
Fourtet’s first 12″ was a fascinating affair, but my experience of his music thereafter has been one of diminishing returns. He’s an interesting composer/performer yet to achieve greatness. The same may be said of Burial whose debut was an impressive, though inconsistent achievement.
There is the potential for something really interesting to come out of this, but I am measuring it, perhaps unfairly, against the likes of T++/Chain Reaction and Jon Hassell. That I should at least be tempted to do so is an encouraging sign though.
Man, so much for my skills as a host.
First, I poorly set the table. I’d myself accidentally switched the titles of the streams above (and thus unintentionally fed a title-ambiguity conspiracy I wasn’t even aware of).
Second, I hadn’t made it clear that guest comments were welcome. Thanks, Colin, for weighing in. It’s somewhat ironic that Colin is the first guest commenter, because from a glance at his website (hardformat.org), it’s a growing archive of examples of fine music-packaging design, and here we are pondering a physical object whose design is as willfully opaque, as plain as can be.
Anyhow, as the day gets underway (at least here in the U.S. — Alan’s over in England, where the day is further ahead), apologies for confusion on my part.
Another morning bus ride, another few cycles through these tracks.
I’ve found in the past that a writing assignment is often the best opportunity, the best excuse, to dig into something — and that a correlative experience I’ve had frequently is that if the work isn’t flat out bad, then repeated listening, while on assignment, even on self-assignment, makes me warm to the subject over time.
Brings to mind this: I interviewed Depeche Mode and Missy Elliott in the past — in both cases not coincident with their best work — yet the immersion process of getting to know the releases in preparation for the interviews, and later while completing the articles, was a kind of intimacy I rarely had with some of my favorite (i.e., non-professional) listening. Of course, the opportunity to speak with the creators of the music only further enhanced the sense of getting inside the tunes.
Anyhow, the more I listen, the more I like — less either track, more the listening experience as a whole, especially the percussive elements.
I remain annoyed by the female vocal — for me, that diva figuration, even in its denuded and mystified mode here, is a major cliche, one whose continued prevalence in club music always surprises me. To me, the ghostly diva is the sonic equivalent of some poor woman dancing in a cage at some self-consciously chic nightclub. In other words, just not my type pf thing.
In contrast, the “dropped pixie stick” percussion is something I look forward to, each time it comes around (I just stick the two MP3s on repeat, and let them alternate).
Re: the ‘diva figuration’, not wanting to turn this into Semiotics 101, but what this makes me think of is the signifier-signified connection and the responses being related to differing connotations. Burial’s use of the diva-ghosts can be read as a signifier of a sort of ‘post-rave elegy’ – the feeling of end-of-party, the ephemerality of hedonism (blah blah). This is how some have seen it representationally, and it’s admittedly powerful as a signifier. On an intellectual level, I can diggit (and I have elsewhere documented an extensive commentary/appraisal along these lines to the last Burial album at igloomag.com for anyone with the stomach to enmire themselves in it ;-)). On the level of aesthetics, however, i.e. in terms of whether I like the sound of those vocals, like Marc, I don’t; I find them annoying, just as I did when I came across them circa 1990. So, even in their deconstructed and re-contextualised form, they don’t sit with me. Now that could be a response in terms of ‘meaning’, i.e. the connotations it has for me as someone for whom soul diva vocals represents something I don’t identify with; or it could be in terms of musical aesthetics*, i.e. it’s simply a sound I don’t care for, Whichever, it adds up to the same response: negative. Ho hum. It adds no resonance for me, or rather it evokes something to do with someone else’s world, not mine.
There’s a use of an Aaliyah sample in Burial’s “In McDonalds” (from “Untrue”). It’s spun into an interlude which has established a texturally involving, immersive ambience. The effect is immediately jarring to me. But, again, intellectually, I recognise and can sort of appreciate what he’s trying to do as an artist. But as to whether this translates to an emotional-musical response to that ‘art’, it’s personal, I guess. Will Cowan (aka Burial) was probably a house-partyer, a raver, and, for him, and those of his subcultural stripe, those vocals must sound with some truly sweet’n’sour resonances. (Youtube clip here for those wanting to follow up: here)
OK, nuff o’ dat. I promise to get back to the specifics of Moth/Wolf Cub tomorrow.
Robert: I half think the ghostly motives in these tracks fit with the releae’s split delivery systems — part archaic physical form (a 12″, not even a CD), and part happenstance distribution through the Internet’s grey markets (streams, downloads, the inevitable remixes — maybe someone’s already merged the two tracks into one, somewhere). To that extent, those fragile sounds are creatures of, representative of, their time. The first opportunity I had to hear the release, the streams I’d located were mic’d so closely that the opening wasn’t just the quiet near-silent intro, but the pre-intro intro of the rough vinyl (the sound for which you have a stated aversion), and several listens passed before I fully convinced myself that the vinyl sound was external to the composition, and not part of what I was intended to be listening to. It said something to me about our moment that I had to make a conscious decision to listen through the noise rather than to it.
Alan, regarding the “diva figuration”: Yeah, that’s a clear distinction: (1) how that sound — a woman’s erotic-yet-generic, wan-yet-charismatic voice — functions in electronic music, and (2) the separate issue of whether there’s an appeal to the listener. They are separate matters, I agree. You bring it around with the “In McDonalds” track, and your sense that to Burial (you have as Bill Cowan, and I saw “William Bevan” in The Independent — any sense of which is what?) that presence is a representation of a sense of loss, traced to early, now halcyon house-partying. Makes sense to me. As such voices go, the one on this track bothers me less than most, but still a distraction when it comes around. And now when I listen to it, I’m going to hear your nostalgia tinge.
Lauren: If it’s not too much to ask, and only if your listening is taking you in that direction, could you talk a bit more about the “ghostly ambient whispers,” since Alan and I found them off-putting?
And Colin, thanks for having posted. I’ve been listening to the latest Jon Hassell a lot, and I heard what you hear — much as I hear a lot of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, as well as some of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack work (Birdy, Last Temptation). (That said, I also hear a lot of Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way in the latest Hassell, so there’s always these cycles of repetition and homage.) I have a side question for you (if you happen upon this post again), which is what you think of the “packaging” of the release, given your website’s (hardformat.org) focus on the packaging/design of music.
Regarding repeated listening, I seldom like a particular track the more I hear it, study it, understand it etc. On the other hand, the more tracks I hear from a particular artist, the more I tend to warm up to the music. These has even worked with otherwise unappealing modernist composers like Charles Wuorinen and Milton Babbitt. It’s possible the ability to create and decide my take on their “greatest hits” by choosing relative favorites results in increasing attraction on an absolute basis. I don’t think these two selections will achieve this effect.
In hindsight, the track I heard on Pandora was Moth as I remember the surface noise at the beginning of the recording. Funny how one remembers what one dislikes.
On third listen, this track lacks what I like about some other Four Tet songs e.g. Swimmer from the Ringer EP, namely, a strong sense of mechanistic and precise rhythm. This one is propulsive but just not as crisp.
As far as switching titles, I blame it on abstraction. This might never have happened in the more concrete world of A and B sides on a 45 record.
For fun, I added, up above, as a postscript to the main post, visual representations of the blank packaging of “Moth”/”Wolf Cub” from three different websites.
So first, it seems that the track I wrote about yesterday was actually Wolf Club. And in reference/agreement with the effects of repeated listening, my response today to Wolf Club is by degrees more engaged. Today I hear something more beautiful altogether, and even a bit moving.
This exercise is an unusual way for me to “warm up to music.” In many ways I am a typical music consumer; I listen to a lot of music in the background. It’s disciplined for me to sit and listen to music as a foreground exercise, with all of the distractions and comforts of home. But yet, this deeper listen is what led me to hear something warmer and purposeful in Wolf Club. For this, I’m grateful.
As for the ghostly ambient twinges, they are very backgrounded in the mix. They sound like air bubbling up from some abyss, some deep black sea murk of sounds, such as one might hear pinging around a submarine.
His willful personal obscurity, his recognizable sound, the purposeful abstracted nature of this release. It all adds up to a pretty seamless aesthetic — admirable. But difficult.
I have to put up a defense here for what might be, again, a more populist response to Burial’s use of female vocal samples. Sure the diva vocal is clichÃ©d, easy, cheesy. But Burial repurposed those samples on ambient layer in the density of his sound — quite stripped of any put-on, strained for sexiness (and the result was more honestly sexy.) Those sounds nod to not only the bleak walk home at 5am, but also to the connection and warmth of that dance floor at 2 AM, and importantly, nod to the roots of club music, a haven for black and gay men. I guess I dig it as sign, and signifier.
OK, about the packaging and promotion of this particular release.
In many ways, the set’s appearance as a black-label, plain-package, limited-edition release is ordinary within the confines of the zone in which it’s appearing. In all manner of club (and more broadly electronic) music (i.e., hip-hop, techno, house, disco, and so on), the 12″ vinyl record has provided a primary distribution mode. A spare black or white label 12” generally means the thing can get shipped out the door as quickly as possible. That way it can start making its way through the music/culture ecosystem, getting play in DJ sets, leading to some sense of feedback on the part of musician and label.
This is less the norm now than it had been. Time was, DJ pools and record companies and small record stores together enabled the 12″ to serve as a test balloon — float it out there, see if it catches wind.
Nowadays, MP3s and grey-market Internet distribution, as well as digital retail, handle much of how music makes its way to listeners. “Scarcity” is a fairly meaningless concept. There is some music that remains relatively difficult to find, especially bootlegs of non-commercial releases (for example, I keep reading about recordings of recent live Bill Laswell sessions with DJ Krush but haven’t heard any of it), yet the days when if you couldn’t locate, say, a copy of Aphex Twin “Hangable Auto Bulb” EP you probably didn’t hear it for awhile, if ever, are over.
Heck, some of the commentary I’ve seen on “Moth”/”Wolf Cub” has mentioned that the Burial material resembles prior, unreleased work (which is to say, unreleased commercially, yet readily accessible). The market has fewer tools than ever to regular what’s heard, let alone what’s released. (Lest that come off as a complaint, please understand I mean it’s an improvement, not a decline.)
I would be highly surprised if Burial and Four Tet’s “Moth”/”Wolf Cub” isn’t followed by additional, related releases, which are then collected on a proper album. I think back to how those long ago Tortoise remixes appeared in lovely individual yellow-label 12”s many years ago, just like the 12″s that came to form Kosma’s New Aspects in Third Stream, just to name two examples.
As a sales promotion, the Burial/Four Tet set has clearly been successful. However, that mode isn’t scalable. If every semi-major electronic act started doing what I’d term “scarcity promotion,” the overall scarcity of the experience would be severely diminished. (It’s sort of like the Nine Inch Nails app for iTunes. It’s a great innovation, but in time, when there are 100s of these apps for every major and minor band, the idea of a dedicated app will seem less feasible, less manageable, less warranted.)
So on the one hand, the 12″ is an expected mode for the Burial/Four Tet release, yet on the other, such a 12″ is somewhat out of its time, especially given the popularity of both of these artists.
Lauren and Alan’s comments about nostalgia come to mind here. The 12″ itself carries an aura not unlike that of the diva figurations we’ve been discussing: a taste of times past.
Interesting musings from Marc, but today my thoughts haven’t been about format matters, though I recognise they matter. I’m more about Rhythm and Sound. Yesterday I talked topping. Today I’m talking base. And mainly Burial, as Fourtet isn’t my area. Like I said, I’m not a card-carrying member of either’s fanclub, but it’s like I’ve done my Burial archaeology, while Fourtet has been something I’ve vaguely dug into here and there.
Burial’s beats have usually been clunky constructions, wrought by intermediate technology. His programme of choice is Soundforge, a fairly unsophisticated bit of ware; it’s no Max/MSP or Ableton Live. Deliberately DIY, you might say. Most of his rhythms are derived from 2-step’s jerky synco-swing template, but rendered slightly ‘off’. He’s not actually ‘proper’ dubstep, but post-dubstep, i.e. knowingly appropriating elements from the dubstep template and grafting other elements onto it. But, of course, dub-step is a hybrid anyway, and different acts accentuate one or another genre element from the palette, or by adding another ‘new’ colour. In the case of many of the Bristol artists (e.g. Peverelist, Pinch, Headhunter), that colouring has typically been a post-Berlin/Basic Channel techno derivation. Likewise with 2562 and Martyn in the Netherlands (sidenote: I tend to be drawn more to this orientation).
Anyway, with Burial, his beat is not techno-tronic. With Rhythm, his preferred flayvah is UK garage and house choons, and, with Sound, there’s been an appealing ‘ambient’ influence; the ambient sound of rain has apparently been a big thing for Burial, and there’s a heavy use of [g]rainy textures in his productions. With (the track here ID-ed as) “Wolf Cub” (but almost certainly really “Moth”), the beat is comparatively pedestrian, so my ears quest for gratification upstairs. Topping? Hmmm, the textural element seem not that interesting to these ears, especially as track time goes by beyond 4 minutes. With (the track here ID-ed as) “Moth” (but almost certainly really “Wolf Cub”), the textures present in-your-face, but when the beats arrive, they’re pretty much a version of the kind of wonky (not Wonky) stuff he’s done before, but kind of oddly displaced; like, in the rhythm and sound equation, they’re less about rhythm than sound. But I’m still not satisfied by either. I dunno, I’m still working out why neither track works for me as well as some of the better pieces they’ve done solo. And it seems to be that somewhere between beat base and ambient topping, the synergy isn’t there.
Sorry for the delay in responding Marc. I do like the digital reproductions of the record you added. I’m not sure the 12″ format itself is particularly special though. Vinyl is increasingly popular again which is a nice counter-weight to the predominant virtualisation of the medium.
And re contemporary listening habits and music packaging, I posted my responses to a set of questions from a student researching the subject on my blog which may be of interest.
Re: your reference to Bush of Ghosts – Hassell was due to be the third element in that release and remains to this day annoyed that Eno and Byrne recorded it without him.
Regarding the 12″ in question, undoubtedly the level of discussion on the web is a result of Burial’s reclusive, but widely admired approach to music. Despite being initially alienated by the hype, I now think he deserves much of the attention. This collaboration is an interesting, unexpected and welcome development. In itself I think it’s fairly slight, but it may be significantly enriched by further work by the pair. I hope that’s the case!
not much to weigh in on as it seems that the discussion this round is winding down, though I did want to agree quickly with Lauren’s reading of Burial’s vocals. As one of my favorites (Terre Thaemlitz) has said, “house was never so much a sound as a situation.” That is to say that the thing that made Untrue such a vastly more successful record for me than his debut was not the vocals themselves but the way they functioned- their relationship to queer black latino/a and transgender communities and these communities relationships to electronic music diasporas (Jamacian immigrants in LDN, for example).
Others have written about the pitch-shifting as as a way of confounding the way that we hear gender and I affirm a way of listening that does not close the presence of the voice within the gendered matrix of the always-already female ‘diva’ as much as it might open up the question of how exactly it is that we ‘hear’ gender in music. Maybe it’s just me but it’s in the ambiguity (admittedly not as present in these tracks as in other places in Burial’s work) that the sex-appeal resides, that the machine desires.
anyway, i love the mp3 discussion format and really hope to see more of these take off in the future. it has the potential to be a great series.
and of course, a lingering question: the initial snafu with track titling, labeling, encoding and authoring raised nascent questions about metadata and the authorial imperative in digitally circulated sound. not articulatable yet, but perhaps there will be some fortunate reason to dig in next time round.
I’m still pondering why, as collaborations go, this is nothing special. I listened last night to some Burial so have a better idea of the style.
In the case of the Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid duets, because one is electronics and one is drums, there is no confusion about what they are trying to do. Sometimes they successfully mesh and sometimes it just doesn’t work, but it almost always sounds original (and different from each has done individually).
Lauren is right in saying the Burial brings some warmth to Four Tet. And in the parts of Moth with the strong rhythmic line, (presumably) Hebden provides the harder-edged, more mechanical but still interesting sound. But it never achieves anything close to what each artist has done on his own. So I also agree with Alan there is little or no synergy here.
On the commerde side, I have no idea what kind of sales volume each artist has but even with this reasonably clever marketing approach, it doesn’t seem like this pairing will be much of a breakout for either, although I suppose every bit counts.
Still, Radiohead’s In Rainbows eventually made it to the retail CD format with considerable success so maybe there is reason to have a CD of some sort to follow here as well. Having now heard it, I might not buy exactly this material but a remix to further blend the input might be fun and/or interesting.
Parting shot, but not really directly about the collab, more to do with the quality of input. I still prefer the earlier Burial material to more recent efforts. The first e.p., South London Boroughs” (Hyperdub, 2005), was edgier with nice noir-ish atmospheres. Had more impact for me. Sounded like a roughed-up jerkier version of dub techno. Try youtubing these two tracks from that e.p.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek8D30DidHw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Acb5EGSiqug Compare and contrast with these current tracks. I know which wins for me.