From its iconic artwork to Burial’s enigmatic persona, ‘Untrue’ is an album that has not only left an indelible mark on music but has also influenced a generation of beat makers and samplers.
In this blog post, we explore the incredible sonic landscapes that Burial created in 2007, and why ‘Untrue’ remains one of the most influential albums of my lifetime.
Who is Burial?
Burial is known for being an exceptionally private and enigmatic artist, who has purposely kept his real identity a secret, and there has been a deliberate effort to maintain his privacy.
Despite much speculation and curiosity from the media and fans, Burial has consistently chosen to let his music speak for itself rather than engaging with the public eye or revealing personal details. He has rarely given interviews, and the information available about his personal life has been limited to a few cryptic statements and anecdotes shared over the years.
The Birth of ‘Untrue’
Released in November 2007, ‘Untrue‘ is often praised for its distinctive sound, characterised by a combination of garage, dubstep, and ambient elements.
The music of ‘Untrue’ is intricately woven into the ambiance of a city at night, skillfully encapsulating the essence of urban life, the profound sense of isolation, and the yearning that characterises those late hours. The album became the preferred late-night soundtrack, a trusted companion for those walking home from a rave at 4 a.m.
“‘Untrue’ is a stunning collection of melancholic, forward-thinking music that stretches the boundaries of electronic music.” – Pitchfork, November 2007
Burial’s music is a masterful fusion of meticulously crafted elements. He seamlessly blends a variety of vocal samples, often pitching and manipulating them to craft an otherworldly and deeply emotional atmosphere. Drawing from a range of sources, including old R&B, soul, and pop tracks, these vocal fragments infuse his compositions with a profoundly human and emotive quality.
Beyond vocal samples, Burial ventures into the realm of the mysterious. He deftly incorporates obscure or unidentified sound sources, leaving listeners intrigued and entranced. These less conventional elements add an air of enigma to his sonic landscape.
Burial’s dedication to his craft extends to the manipulation and layering of samples. His meticulous approach involves stretching, distorting, and processing sounds to create the desired mood and texture, ultimately giving rise to a unique and evocative sonic palette.
What truly sets Burial apart is his talent for creative transformation. He takes fragments of existing sounds and reimagines them, integrating them seamlessly into the album’s emotional and sonic narrative. In doing so, he makes these elements entirely his own, resulting in a musical tapestry that resonates on a profound level.
Burial employs field recordings to capture the very essence of the city at night, whether it’s the gentle patter of rain, the echo of footsteps, or the hushed cadence of conversations. These recordings infuse the album with a profound sense of place, evoking the unmistakable atmosphere of a metropolis after dark.
Yet, Burial’s creative influences extend beyond the urban landscape. There’s no denying that he is a devoted gamer, and his music reflects this passion. Drawing inspiration from the evocative sounds of classic PlayStation games, he weaves a tapestry of nostalgia and innovation. Take ‘Archangel‘ as a prime example. This track notably incorporates an iconic sample borrowed from the legendary 2001 game, Metal Gear Solid 2. It’s a testament to the artist’s ability to seamlessly blend gaming culture with musical artistry, creating a unique auditory experience that transcends boundaries and captivates a diverse audience.
Recognise the haunting string section that emerges at 0:34 seconds into ‘Archangel’? This sample is extracted from the epic bridge-leap scene in Metal Gear Solid 2, and you can hear it at 1:38 seconds in this clip here.
“‘Burial has crafted a rare, haunting work that undeniably reflects a time and a place.” – Resident Advisor
“You look different…”
Burial’s distinctive use of obscure vocal samples and field recordings is a defining feature of his music. It infuses his tracks with a haunting and distinctly human quality, creating an emotional depth that resonates profoundly with the listener. While the vocal samples may originate from popular R&B tracks and undergo subtle manipulation, they carry a profound emotional weight that adds a unique dimension to the album.
Throughout ‘Untrue,’ there’s a remarkable absence of a traditional song structure or vocal variety, but the chosen samples bear an immense emotional significance. ‘In McDonalds,’ for instance, stands out as an immersive track that invokes haunting nostalgia. As soon as the iconic line is spoken – “Because once upon a time it was you I adored‘” – memories come rushing back. The angelic, gentle voice, the delicate piano, and the serene strings create a work of art. Each of us experiences this track in our own way, and it resonates with our individual emotions.
It’s unquestionably a fascinating track, giving rise to numerous theories and personal anecdotes among fans about its meaning. Some intriguing insights can be found buried within the depths of Reddit and YouTube comments, contributing to the mystery and allure of the song.
“I always assumed that Burial wrote this song thinking about some kind of past lover, but what if he was really talking about the McDonald’s and how the view of it changed when he grew up?” – Wattadatta, Reddit
In a world where musical trends come and go, Burial’s ‘Untrue’ stands as a testament to the timelessness of creative genius. Over a decade has passed since its release, and yet its impact continues to reverberate throughout the electronic music landscape. This album not only defines a specific moment in music history but transcends it, inspiring new generations of artists and electronic music enthusiasts.
The haunting beauty, the emotional depth, and the artistry embedded in ‘Untrue’ remain as relevant today as they were in 2007. Burial’s innovative use of samples and his ability to craft a sonic world that resonates on a deeply personal level have left an indelible mark on the industry. The album has not merely aged well; it has become a timeless classic.
As listeners continue to find their own unique connection with ‘Untrue,’ it’s evident that its influence will persist for many more years to come. Burial’s music endures as a reminder of the power of sound to evoke emotions and transport us to places only music can reach. In the world of electronic music, ‘Untrue’ remains an enduring beacon, guiding us through the urban nights, the solitude, and the haunting beauty of our own emotions.