ver since Burial capitalized on dubstep's increasing mainstream exposure and blew away a whole new audience with his self-titled debut, the power of that album's desolate vision has made the wait for new material from the South London producer an agonizing one. With the exception of a single track on the recent Box of Dub compilation, the mysterious DJ has remained quiet for over a year. That’s why we urge caution when listening to Ghost Hardware, a new three-song EP. You may find yourself underwhelmed; considering how long it's been, Ghost Hardware sounds, at least upon a cursory listen, surprisingly like an addendum to Burial's self-titled album rather than an evolution.
While Burial was a dense work, slow to reveal its murky intricacies, Ghost Hardware's methods seem remarkably transparent. On Burial, abstract fragments of sound—hollow R&B diva wails, clattering percussion, sub-bass frequency depth charges—were densely arranged and submerged in a constant pirate radio crackle, producing a mournful dirge for a decaying, subaqueous future London. All the quintessentially Burial elements make a return on Ghost Hardware, but rather than retaining equal billing in the thick chorus of noise, most find themselves demoted to providing repetitive background support to underwhelming melodic hooks.
The eponymous opening track, for example, carves in stone a compelling backing track from skeletal drums and gut-punching sub-bass blasts, but relies primarily on a trilling diva vocal that, if not bordering on cheesy, is definitely not enough of a hook to carry a song. Likewise, "Shutta"'s drums are a beautiful, morphing arrangement of wooden clanks, but they serve only to support another underwhelming melody. EP closer "Exit Woundz," while not possessing any ill-advised attempts at a hook, still lacks any of the unique atmosphere that made tracks like "U Hurt Me" so entrancing.
While not entirely lacking in enjoyable moments, Ghost Hardware simply sounds like a musician failing to recapture a feeling, resulting in an EP full of songs that appear to be Burial, but quickly reveal themselves to be formulaic and empty. Thankfully, there is still some hope; "Unite," from the aforementioned Box of Dub compilation, is an excellent track which employs the more melodic, vocal-driven style heard on this EP to much greater effect. Given Burial's near-refusal to talk to the media, I can only hope that track is more representative of the direction the next full-length will take.
Reviewed by: Ben Good
Reviewed on: 2007-07-27