Burial + Four Tet

Moth/Wolf Cub

(Text; 2009)

By Chet Betz | 8 May 2009

Is Burial Four Tet? No. Does their fresh split 12”—fallen from night-sky heavens like a tear sent to ripple through the blogosphere ocean, the original drop disappearing as quickly as limited-run hot shit might—display the two producers on one serious Vulcan mind-meld trip? Oh yes. And these two tracks are full of fun games/debates/questions: Which dude is responsible for what sound? Which track is better? Who takes themselves more seriously? Thing is, the only appropriate final response to all those questions is that ice grill of a black cover.

“Moth” flutters to a start with a kind of nascent Four Tet sound collage but when distant echoes resolve themselves into a foundation, an indomitable synth cycle (possibly accented with a screwed vocal loop?), things sound more Burial-esque, to say nothing of the clomping dubstep percussion that may or may not be the exact same drums Burial used on “Acheron.” That last aside is no critique; those drums work it out, head-noddingly so. In fact, every sound in “Moth” is folded together so fastidiously, seams get lost in the craft of the origami. And the resonant interplay of long-form structure with depth of detail is dazzling enough to really feel like at least two brains would had to have scripted it: one to steer the epic flow and another to make all the peripheries jive, what with the vocal clips, found sound cracks, and arp overcharges hitting their surprising yet exact cues to interject within the track’s golden spiral. After entering something like an extended breakdown in the midst of its slow-broil, “Moth” builds through a series of synth lines that get increasingly bent until they’re glistening waves. Rather suddenly the track dials down into the lope of sample static and the dissipation of its last buried tone…there is no real break…and “Wolf Cub” begins with what could be those glistening waves turned rainfall on a tin roof, playing wind chimes with precision. From there things develop with swift assurance, “Wolf Cub” a structural if not textural mirror of its companion: the arpeggios are aggressive, the effects are pronounced, the progression’s got swing but it’s also geometric. Good thing it’s cell-shaded or the edges might jag; another more subtle collaborative influence on what many are calling Four Tet getting his swerve on over a 2-step beat from a Burial e-mail? I myself somewhat mistakenly reduced this track to being all-Four Tet when it’s just not that exclusive, at least not in terms of philosophy. Both “Moth” and “Wolf Cub” are all-Burial, all-Four Tet.

I mean, I don’t want to spoil this moment for anyone, but to be cryptic about it: listen to how “Wolf Cub” cribs the mini-catharsis in its closing out of some secret that “Moth” constantly whispers into the wall between them, like nature’s delayed reaction to Chow’s mythic release in Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love; hey, I just referenced one of my favorite movies, that’s how much I care about what’s been begotten from the conjoined mind-loins of Burial + Four Tet. The humble confidence, the self-contained world, the sheer form of this wee 12” is like breathing the purest air, like drinking straight from the storm cloud. Though shrouded, here there be draconic ambitions with a tight-iris scope that creates an achievement so complete and unerring within its distilled self, its smallness feels vital in a big way. Like Mo Williams. And, finally, as all my similes break down, this flimsy piece of plastic still sounds inexorable, singular, wholly independent in its sublime co-dependency…and so scrolls out a slew of other adjectives and superlatives and emphatic italics on and on into a dark infinity, characters filling up the white until black is the negative space and the power its empty words cannot touch divulges itself as brilliant points of light. It’s from somewhere in this scape that Burial + Four Tet gaze coolly back, starry music in their eyes. Plus!—with the all-black packaging the way you see this record apart from its shell is by virtue of the very grain of the music documented, light bouncing off the bumps and ridges of the vinyl. Feel the profundity, motherfuckers.

I know, okay: two tracks. Are you kidding us, me? So I try to squelch hyperbole, so I give this a lower percentage than my heart wants me to—even though it’s the highest number my mind’s wrapped around a record this year. No, this isn’t just some split between two artists on their A-games. ‘Cause you know what’s more difficult to parse? A great harmony. Here Burial and Four Tet harmonize their pants off. They harmonize the shit right out of their aesthetics, a higher osmosis at work which obliterates that membrane of a slash. This is no split; this is union. In their holy matrimony these two tracks together offer more to think, feel, and wonder about than many full albums released in ’09. Let no man, woman, or MP3 playlist tear them asunder.