Burial's Neptune and Mythological London

Listen: Burial - 'Shell of Light' and 'Etched Headplate'(from album 'Untrue' (2007) Hyperdub, London)



Burial's 2007 album Untrue came as his second release to date on Kode9's Hyperdub label, and like the first selt-titled LP was released with the complete anonymity of the true identity of Burial himself. After a British press hunt to find him after Untrue's nomination for a Mercury Music prize, he was finally revealed, by himself on his very informal Myspace page (despite some 30,000 friends), to be a low-key geezer from South London named Will Bevan. He asserted that he wished to keep his identity unknown simply because of his insistence on the importance of the music itself, choosing not to opt out for mere celebrity status. And to me this sounds a fitting response; Burials music, a bleak, stark, alienated and yet deeply culturally resonant sound that seems to bring together London's 'Hardcore Continuum' (from Simon Reynold's term describing London’s Pirate Radio culture since the early '90s post acid-house wave) and its current manifestation as Dubstep, an electroaccoustic and phonological sensitivity with the compassion of liturgical music, is to the right ears a deeply spiritual music, a cry from the ghettoes of Western oblivion and an invocation of deep conscience. And beyond that, it rings something in me of mass cultural change, a hymn to the end of an era; the soundtrack of a Watery dissolving of peaking cultural forms, and the opening for the graceful collapse and spiritual dissolution of the dreams, visions and mythology of London streets and Western Civilisation at large; the gentle melting away of former cultural standards, Modernist optimism and Post-Modern cynicism, into the clear light of dynamic and compassionate Presence.

And perhaps one can see all forms of art and creativity as manifestations of a sort of mythic transformation, of alchemical rebirth - of forms and visions of navigated territories of our disparate and dislocated human field finding their place in the beginning and end of life itself. Culture itself can be seen as a living process, never a 'thing' to be captured, of the interaction, from the evolutionary paradigm of Leary, Hyatt and Alli, between DNA and geography; of the human central nervous system, the pulsing humanist heart, with the territories of the Planetary Organism; a conjunction which at the eventual conclusion finds its destiny in the constant becoming of pure life and Infinity. As such the real crux of culture, like in all tribal rites and rituals, is a process of transference and individuation between the individual and the world at large. Inspiration for the artist comes via the absorption of life itself from the world's sphere of interactions, and then the personal response of that information finding its place within the personal and intimate world of man's dreams and visions, that quiet place, in Varese's terms, of "inner deserts, not the physical deserts of sand, sea, mountains and snow, of outer space, of empty city streets... but also that remote inner space no telescope can reach, where man is alone in a world of mystery and essential loneliness". That innate process of creativity comes when the human finds his/her place in the world, their centre in the midst of conditions, and from this place of integrity, of relative Truth, the transformed and integrated personal truth itself is transmitted into the living theatre of life.

Art is as innate to life itself as our means of constant reproduction, of freedom, of dissolution, destruction and renewal - not so much in the stagnant forms by which we have come to know Art in its institutional context in this dissolute and empty era, but art as a constant way of life where every living moment is expressed by each individual in its entirety from the centre of one’s intimately personal and innately unique true conscience and true Will.

Burial's 'Shell of Light' might sound like just that - the murky stains and coloured contours of London’s city streets, the pain and suffering of British ancestry, finding its resting place via the heart of a South Londoner, in a hymn of a deep, eternal truth, and the biology of past and future firing out into the skies over the Thames. Like all forms of liturgical music, devotional music, from Europe’s meditative chants, the dirges and laments of Asia Minor, the long ragas of subcontinental Asia, the folk music of the Saharan dunes, the dance of Javanese Gamelan; music acts as a sort of magickal process of necessary transformation, where the collective dreams and fears and resolute detritus of its culture is put into rapport between the earth and sky from the depth of the body’s expression. And from the outcome, the Song, the Lament; the human heart is fed back into itself, and life continues. And perhaps, on this large varied and radial planetary organism in which we live, each place and site exudes a very specific life of its own, its own unique mandalic manifestation of our Earth's centre; and it's human inhabitants, like its variety of organic life; its midwives. As such each neighbourhood, each city, each town, each nation, carries its own unique language in which human systems and human consciousness can be made resonant with the environment. Religion is language, a language that via symbolism and varied systems of form renders palpable to the human mind that which is beyond form, the dynamic energy of life itself in the mysterious subatomic realms of sensitivity beyond the density of human interactions. And via these systems of form, a human culture is made resonantly unconscious, its collective dreaming tuned to a harmonic of myths and language via which daily life can be lived in resonance with the environment.

In India everyday, some several millions of Hindus, in varying and highly fluxed degrees of fanaticism and honest integrity, begin each morning, and end each day, with a puja of 'Jai Ho', with a moment of quiet devotion to an image and form of the Unknown, to the transpersonal forces governing life, to the pulse of the astrological Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, in the form of luminously coloured multi-armed Gods. Their religion is one in which their unique biology is sealed, in which family life and the innate and humbled limitations of their terrestrial origins are lived out. A Virgo conspiracy, a structure so perfect, so refined and so intellectually genius that chaos is the order of the day, and because change is honoured so much, the radicalism of change that we have come to expect in the West is simply not possible, as the great Hindu dream machine rolls on to an unconscious harmonic. So what? How is it that we in the West come to be humbled by the Unknown in such a seemingly vastly rationalist and repressive matrix. How can we come to know God in our own uniquely European, post-Christian, biological origins?

Cultural life, constant musical exhibitionism, constant openings and humble closings to the Unknown in everyday life - new Art, new Cinema, new Music, new Fashion, new Form - carriers of information to feed our culture and its own evolving mythology. In this age, in this passing era, the acceleration of human myths exceeds greatly the old systems of religion and easily navigatable terrain. Within these fields of knowledge, the instinctive minds of those who have grown from such an abstracted age carry their own language, a la Wilson's Ontological Anarchy, armed with their own distinct voice, from which nothing but their centre is sourced. One can do much anthropological study of tribes and cultures, one can make relatively easily definable generalizations about religion and mythology in its historical context, but as I see it, the real crux of the issue lies in the burgeoning and pulsing complexity of life in our modern 21st century matrix. Finding one's way through murky city streets, through the pulsing of life forms of such deep abstraction, of the underground cultures of New York, London, Berlin, Melbourne - stretching the minds eye into seemingly un-navigatable territories, the hypercultural transmodernism of post history, the grime and stains of psychosexual oblivion, the shitheap of this vastly accelerated beast. Truth may be navigated, intellectual victory made over tying together historical opposites; one may even feel as if they have touched the light of Christ, but what does it matter if this information cannot find its place in our own distinct biology? What does it matter if it lacks resonance with the rest of our social connectivity, who cares if one cannot do anything with such experiences, and fire back the energy gained from direct experience and feed it back into the very foundations of our culture? And so the dark beat of our Western megacities, the grime on nightclub walls, the sleeping pain of dreary capitalist superstructures, the morphic resonance of our culture at large, waits to be engaged. And for those who dare to dream and live freely in Self-Anchoring, Self-Nurturing, Self-Guiding, conscience is to be engaged, True Will is to be engaged; the radical fire burning from within seeks its place in bare honesty, life pulses ever onwards towards its inevitable encounter, gracefully and humbly flowing to the pulse of the everyday Sun and Moon. As such, the peaking fires of cultural life that cathartically explode onto the world stage, helps us to realize the future in our own biology; and from there, our minds horizon find its teacher in the life of the body; the future is open for graceful engagement, and candles are lit and hymns are sung for something to bring it all back.

Listen: Burial - Forgive (from album 'Burial' (2006) Hyperdub, London)



Kodwo Eshun

Ten years ago, Kodwo Eshun wrote this about the Berlin-based techno duo Basic Channel: "[The] Basic Channel CD sounds like it set out to tap the system's energies, capture its underground echoes, read and feed into its steady flows of communication. The rhythms feel like severed live wires instinctively feeling their way back to the energy source. And when they finally connect, on the trail-out grooves called, appropriately enough, "Radiance i/Radiance iii", the rhythmic pulses burst, irradiating the city above and suffusing it with a shimmering electronic glow." Something similar can be said about the dub Burial is producing in the second half of the first decade of the 21st century.