Continuing his string of well-received singles and EPs on Hyperdub, Will Bevan's latest release as Burial boldly eschews all percussion, highlighting the atmospheric elements of the London producer's sound more than ever. As such, Subtemple/Beachfires may disappoint those who admire Bevan mainly for his distinctive and influential beats, but no one sounds quite like him, and this distinctive piece of work is no exception.
Minus the percussion, all the usual Burial motifs are in place here: minimal, chiming synth tones, disembodied vocal snippets, the muffled rumblings of nocturnal forces. Interestingly, the track titles suggest a departure from the more urban soundscapes Bevan has built in the past, although they retain their lonely, menacing tone. B-side "Beachfires" conjures an especially haunting atmosphere, featuring what sounds like the ominous chants of a male choir issuing from the primal depths — like you're secretly witnessing an ancient rite you have no business being privy too. It's immersive stuff.
Lead track "Subtemple" isn't as immediately gripping, but nonetheless manages to evoke its own brand of dread via an echo chamber of slowly but steadily pursuing footsteps. And while neither track features beats per se, they nonetheless throb with an internal rhythm that emerges from the structural placement of the various overlapping samples. Bevan's deft touch as a collagist is really on display here.
That said, newcomers should probably look elsewhere for an introduction to Burial, and fans who've always skipped over his less beat-oriented tracks will probably like Subtemple/Beachfires the least. However, those who prize Burial for his use of texture and atmosphere will find much to like here — and certainly all will at least come away with a broader appreciation of the artist's style. (Hyperdub)