After last years stunning self-titled debut from Burial, I have to admit that Untrue pretty much shot completely to the top of my must-hear list as soon as it was announced. When the positive reviews started flowing in, I tried to temper my enthusiasm a bit lest I be let down, but fortunately this is a kicker of an album that should pretty much meet or exceed anyone's expectations for it. Taking just about every element from the debut and improving on it slightly, this is a straight-up stunner.
The least-changed element on the release are the beats themselves (often resorting to the same actual sounds as the debut), but they've been bumped up slightly in speed and layered even more densely with other instrumentation. Vocals are the key difference here, and the real revelation, with the mysterious producer behind the name moving into a downright pop territory in places as pitch-twitching vocals crop up in just every track and propel things forward.
After a short ambient opening track, "Archangel" blasts into gear with a rib-kicking beat, sub-bass groans, and haunting string swirls as choppy vocals soar it upwards. As mentioned above, the vocal style is a bit odd at first, with short phrases (in this case, soulful words about "lovin' you, kissin' you") cut and played at different pitches as if done on a sampling keyboard (but with a slightly higher level of proficiency). With the rumbling beats and crisp production, the result is something closer to the sound of a top 40 urban track getting gutted and bent to more sinister design. "Near Dark" drops an even faster beat, with slurping shuffling sounds, more dark synth strings, and multiple layers of clipped and filtered vocals.
And really, that's roughly how the album progresses from there out, with several shorter tracks that help break things up a bit with some airy ambience. "Endorphin" is particularly effective, with loads of heavily reverbed vocals drifting through a gooey, crackling wash of sound that keeps the overall vibe of the release while giving a reprise from the dark rhythms.
Like a true enigma, Burial even throws in a very slight curveball right at the end of the album, with the slightly more straightforward beats of "Raver" nudging the album into an even more poppy realm (albeit with gun-shell hi-hats and a still slightly claustrophobic feel). Those that didn't care for the first album from Burial will likely have many of the same feelings here, although the small production shifts and the addition of vocals might warrant another listen. Needless to say, Untrue shatters any ideas of a sophomore slump. If Burial can continue this type of upward momentum, look out.