As much as I daydream about being able to say the opposite, I don't actually know William Bevan, who most of us know as elusive dubstep auteur Burial. Sure, I've gazed at that one solitary, grainy selfie of him more than I have my own reflection in the mirror, and yes, I did spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find old school photos of him and Four Tet, but I've never met him, spoken to him, or sat on the same N21 as him. Yet, I feel like I do know him. So well in fact that he's sort of a companion of mine. Yes, I'm aware that that makes me sound like an absolute sad act, but fuck it, I don't care, because it's true, and we should never be ashamed of our truths.
Three Christmases ago, the Secret Santa of dark and dismal 2-step dropped the Rival Dealer EP, and like a lonely drunk on Boxing Day, I believed it when he whispered "You are not alone," into my ever-receptive ear. Yesterday the secretive South Londoner snuck an early gift into our stockings in the shape of the "Young Deaths/Nightmarket" single, and as the angels sang "I will always be there for you," it was hard not to see his music as a constant and guiding force, one that promises—just like the innocence and jubilation that seep into Christmas morning like brandy into the pudding—to last forever.
Gone are the two-step beats and punchy rhythms, gone is the jungle/garage inspired sub-bass underlay. Instead Burial's new release draws on the ambient sounds of "Night Bus" or "Endorphin"; nearly inaudible police sirens, pitter-patter of rain drops and old-skool vinyl scratches. The whispered samples are breathy and the silences are breathless; but every crest and trough of the waveform are equally breath-taking. Although a suggestion that Burial had gone a bit vaporwave was just because the rips were so slowed-down, there's still something new in the dark, 80s inspired arpeggiated synths. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it does sound like a lead-in to an LP.
Although my obsession may seem like I'm more than one BPM short of a beatmatch, there are other fans just as fanatic as myself. Swerve past the alt-right keyboard warriors and the upskirt-shot fanatics and you'll find that Reddit actually hosts a rather brilliant Burial sub-forum. It's a unique community in the world of electronic music fans; every day stories are posted by rough sleepers from across the globe, sharing strikingly similar narratives about dark times and how Burial has healed them. It's testament to how stunningly affecting Bevan's music is that 3,000 people log-in and talk about him every day—especially considering new news is usually far and few between.
I asked the superfans—from Spain to Mozambique—to send me their thoughts on the new release, and I compiled some of the most prominent topics that ran through them. In true Burial style, they are anonymous apart from their moniker. If there's anything William Bevan has taught us, it's that enigma is as enchanting as it is concealing.
Danny365 – "I've been depressed for quite a while…I just go to work, eat, then sleep. A couple of days ago I went to Reddit and saw that there was a new Burial EP coming out. I don't even remember the last time I've been so excited about anything. The outro of "Nightmarket" is like the light at the end of the tunnel. The light that was worth fighting for."
Frank_Estuary – "Burial provided me with a warm, compassionate soundtrack during my first bout with depression. I'm really enjoying my early listens of the new EP. Burial's music is always evolving and shifting in different ways that feel natural and exploratory, but it always sounds like Burial."
Kitsch2007 – "Sure, I miss his more abrasive style, but I adore this one for finalising the idea that we can be healed and find happiness in our lives and I hope him and his fans can stay true to this message."
Chunkee2na – "When his sound changed, it coincided with my own life having an uptick. His sound seemed more uplifting, more grandiose. Artists change and evolve, and it seems fitting."
Jude111 – "As always, Burial offers a message of hope ('Don't cry, don't fear')."
Polou- "His music has also been part of one of the best moments of my life, by Her side, walking on the top of an island in the north of Spain, surrounded by a sky full of stars, talking and enjoying ourselves with Burial's company making the frame something so idyllic, that I will never forget it."
Simple_Enigma – "Burial's return feels like that of an old friend—one you haven't seen in years, and you've lost connection with. That friend was always there for you, in the darkest of times, you could turn to them for comfort, and they always knew exactly what to say. Small glimpses of them give you hope. Then, suddenly, one day you hear a knock on the door. That friend is standing there and they come with new stories to tell of their life. You don't mind listening to the same stories repeatedly, as long as you hear their voice. You know that your friend will soon pack up and disappear again for a long time. But for now, you have new stories; and you'll make the most of these moments together."
Jude111 – "I might be wrong, but I had felt that the release of "Sweetz" was partly a response to Brexit. I wonder too if the timing of this release is related to recent events. I'm from Greater Boston, and to be honest I've been quite depressed ever since Trump won. This Burial release doesn't have the magical, Christmas-y feel of 2013's Rival Dealer, but then the world is a much darker place right now, the times more uncertain, and this is reflected in the music."
Polou – "I feel the new LP closer than ever, with some of the insane unreleased tracks we all have been asking for."