Burial: “Old Tape”

Burial: “Old Tape”

Few artists combine steadfast predictability with curveballs quite like Burial. While certain hallmarks have remained consistent over William Bevan’s past half-decade of 12″s—it appears he’s never gotten around to cleaning the stylus he uses when sampling old wax, for one thing—he has found surprising ways to reanimate hoary thunderclaps and clattering shell casings. Straying far from his usual UK garage stomping grounds, Burial has detoured through synth-pop and even trance, while tracks like “Beachfires” and “State Forest” have forsaken beats entirely, opting for billowing expanses of pure atmosphere.

“Old Tape,” Burial’s contribution to Hyperdub’s forthcoming Hyperswim compilation, offers only minor tweaks to the formula. Despite stray sounds that seem to have snuck in from somebody else’s record collection—echoes of ’80s electro-funk, Italo-disco, and the Miami Vice soundtrack—the song proceeds more or less as you’d expect, slathering a looped a cappella and chugging trance arpeggios in vinyl hiss.

Perhaps most notable is Bevan’s unabashed embrace of his most melodramatic tendencies. Nearly eight minutes long, the song is structured in two parts: The first half lays out the basic theme, and the second doubles down on the Big Feelings. Halfway through, there’s a false ending when the beat drops out and a mournful voice sings, “You were my girl/It’s true,” through cavernous echo. As the echo fades, the sound of a cassette being flipped (“Old Tape,” get it?) launches us into the metaphorical B-side of this particular tale of heartbreak. It’s a sneaky way of making old sound effects sound new.

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