‘Raver’, by Burial, from the album Untrue
Nostalgia is a beautiful, brutal thing, and so it has come to hit me in the face once more with remembrance of how I discovered Burial. The reclusive UK dubstep/grime producer released his second album Untrue in late 2007, and on the tip of some good online folk, I checked it out. My subsequent (and repeated) rocking out awkwardly to his beats, seated in front of my laptop in a tatami-floored Japanese room by the sea, is not something anyone else needs to ever see or think about, but if the dearest moments in one’s life are marked by the purest self-realization yet experienced, I’d hold that as dear as just about anything.
Unlike most of my favourite albums, Untrue did actually grab me immediately, warranting a second listen straight after the first. However, it wasn’t until after a week or so that I realized it was Raver that stuck in my head as I cycled to and from the supermarket. It is the closing track, after all, but that’s not why I couldn’t shake it.
There are several reasons for this. First, it stands out clearly as being unlike anything else on the album. The moody, echoed, organic textures of ‘Archangel’, ‘Ghost Hardware’ and ‘Untrue’ are offset by the quiet reverberating tones of ‘Endorphin’ and ‘In McDonalds’, but ‘Raver’ offers a more upbeat conclusion with its straightforwardness and clarity of tone. As such, it could be dismissed as more shallow than what’s come before, but repeated listens prove this isn’t the case.
Opening with echoed cymbal hits, it starts off much like the other tracks. Then that driving beat kicks in, followed by a pushing, wobbling bassline – can I even call it a bassline? It kicks in at about 00:18 – and I’m swept along every time. Layers are added steadily until the chorus which seems to burst, powerfully but at a respectful distance, out of the metronomic beat. Its simple up-and-down tones cut to the heart of whoever feels like listening.
One of the more beautiful things about Burial’s music is that he cuts the vocal samples so that they could be heard and interpreted in several different ways. To me, the initial plaintive cry on ‘Raver’ asks us to “choose life” and later agonizes over “the world’s fear” and how we “never grow”. A simple message that could be purely my own. Perhaps the way cuts the lyrics is an effort to include the listener in what meaning should be ascribed to his work.
It’s hopeful, it’s emotional. Everyone’s been dancing for hours and this is the last song before the club closes, or something. Burial himself once said that one way he would be inspired would be to recall the sounds of the club echoing in his head when he got home (see question 9), and that’s exactly what ‘Raver’ reminds me of. Still nodding your head as you unlock the door, then breaking out some clumsy moves with your girlfriend as you both stagger into the bedroom. Or closing your eyes and pointing to the sky with passion as you begin to comprehend what being away from home REALLY means. Your choice.