"I am the high one/I am the lord of ecstasy", opens the first track from Burial's latest release, the back-to-back single of Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above. Sampled from the game Assassin's Creed Valhalla, the monologue signals that Burial is treading familiar grounds, while the next 26 minutes proves that his sonic expansion melts away distinct sounds.
Slated to release on February 9, 2024, the two tracks were surprise-dropped a week earlier. Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above also marks the first solo Burial release under XL, after almost two decades of releasing music under Hyperdub. Most of the enigmatic producer's releases after his groundbreaking albums of the mid-2000s have been short in form, and Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above falls into the same category, as there are only two tracks. The tracks, however, clock in at upwards of twelve minutes each, twisting and turning like fragments of memories.
As fans online have voiced their opinions in descriptors like Italo, freestyle, jungle, hardcore, or even "Crazy Frog-esque" when the teaser for the release dropped last month, the full release—like most of Burial's work—could not be described that simply. Instead, the long compositions blend all said influences into a progressive whole that feel at once reminiscent of Burial's signature sound and while also expanding its scope.
The release is unmistakably true to Burial's soundscape, with his signature touches serving as an underlying DNA to the songs. The tape hisses, the crackles, the spray paint rattles, the reused samples. "Dreamfear" sets the mood that is decidedly gloomy, but it makes way for a deconstruction of what came before. The words "back from the dead/fucked up in the head" are repeated like a mantra, ushering in a darkness that fluctuates in intensity.
"Boy Sent From Above" opens like a cut from Burial's earlier releases, before the somber tone is cut by otherworldly synthesizers. Amidst all this, Burial is never lost, still maintaining the mysterious allure and sounding like himself—as opposed to a musician constantly trying to reinvent themself and straying too far from what makes them unique in the first place. The structural shifts of the songs showcase what seem to be imperfections at first, yet a closer listen will reveal that everything is meticulously calculated. The different parts of the puzzle might seem jarring, but the moment when everything comes together is revelatory. Like the person behind the record, the whole breadth of Burial's universe is more deep and complex than what we might be able to traverse, and Dreamfear/Boy Sent From Above is a trip just outside of the known realm.(alm/tim)