Dubspot Sub-Bass Studies Pt 3: Burial – Peter Tosh – African Baka Water Music – Is There A Connection?

Why call yourself Burial?

Judging by the vigor of his music, it doesn’t sound like Burial has a big death wish. This soundscape artist is mysterious. It took two years after 2006′s self named debut became Wire mag’s Album of the Year, for the man born William Bevan to grudgingly disclose his government name. Anonymity became impossible when Untrue cemented his success as a beatmaster prowling the perimeters of known sound. Presumably the truth had to be dragged out of him with one of those big metal machines grinding across concrete floors that one imagines Burial mics up to obtain some of his crusty textures.

Burial’s native South London has always been steeped in reggae, and everything he has ever made owes a debt to dubmasters like Niney and Lee Perry. My educated guess is that Burial’s name was inspired by another tune called “Burial,” one of the more mordant songs of Peter Tosh, the most overtly militant of the three original Wailers, from his first solo album in 1976, Legalize It. In “Burial”, Tosh scoffs at those who want him to go to funerals; he is too busy living life. By tradition, Rastas would rather honor their lost ones with a nine nights drumming session than attend a burial ceremony.

Peter Tosh – “Burial” from Legalize It (Virgin, 1976)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR9ReVtb0uQPeter Tosh – “Burial Dub Plate”

Not unlike Skrillex, whose sophisticated work I compared to UK prog-rocker Yes in Sub-Bass 002, , Burial too is currently being acclaimed for a new maturity on his latest EP, “Kindred.” Skrillex comes out of emo, the mysterious Burial is more likely a descendant of dub; but in both cases, there’s a new mastery at work: an enhanced ability to access emotion and explore softer textures; all set in a more elaborately orchestrated journey into sound.

The Kindred EP builds to a grand climax with the racy, hallucinatory track, “Ashtray Wasp,” with its wispy hints of sobbing soul singers colliding in a disco. But the title track, “Kindred,” gives a more intimate glimpse into what motivates Burial. Itchy drums and blurry, plangent trip-hop girl vocals ride on a rippling river of looped record static – a subtly eddying and swirling stream of energy. That current rushing beneath the song sweeps me away, and the scratchy vinyl swirls beneath the track the way subterranean streams still flow beneath our cities.

Burial – “Kindred” from Kindred EP (Hyperdub, 2012)

Our human bodies are mostly water, with melanin as a mere afterthought. “Kindred”‘s propulsive ripple recalls a form of music-making by the women of the Baka ethnic group from Cameroon and Congo in the Central African rainforests. The women stand in mid-river and play the water in rhythmic splashes that seem to contain all music.

Music from the Baka people

Baka women water drumming

The sound gives a sense of comfort like being lulled by tides in the womb. All the moaning, quivering, fractured facets of Burial’s yearning in Kindred can be heard shimmering in the Baka women’s liquid percussion. More info on the Baka people can be found here.

In case you missed Dubspot sub-bass studies parts 1 & 2 check them out below.

Dubspot Sub-Bass Studies Pt 1: Winston Riley – ‘Ring the alarm! Another sound man dying!’

Dubspot Sub-Bass Studies Pt 2: Skrillex vs. Yes – Prog Rock’s Influence on Dubstep?

Vivien Goldman is a journalist, educator, and musician from London. She currently lives in New York City. Goldman’s fifth book The Book of Exodus: the Making and Meaning of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Album of the Century was published in 2006 on Three Rivers Press.