Every year, there is a brouhaha over the next release from UK producer Burial. The previously anonymous William Bevan was once king within dance and indie circles. To say his self-titled debut and follow up “Untrue” was widely acclaimed is an understatement. The producer’s unique approach to sampling and creating noir garage tunes made him one of the most innovative producers in years. However, after 2011’s “Street Halo”, Burial turned to lengthier experimental epics. Every release seemed to draw out poignant ambient soundscapes and raw emotional power. While many called 2012’s “Kindred” a landmark release, they were wrong. Every release Burial has done the past five years sounds nothing like his work on “Untrue”, nor like anything else in electronic music. Neither one is a landmark, but the landmark is this entire era of Burial’s output. Therefore, the question remains: will Burial return for another release this year?
While the world waits, there’s another artist that will hold fans over for the time being. The ever prolific vaporwave label Business Casual dropped another new release last Friday: Asha Mirr’s “It’s A Big World.” Similarly, New York-based producer Asha Mirr is perhaps anonymous. Mirr’s music has a kindred spirit with Burial’s lo-fi garage rhythms and R&B sampling. Yet that’s as far as the comparisons go. While Burial’s music contains sorrowful melodies and melancholic atmospheres, Mirr’s goes full-on dark. Dissonance and a foreboding mood permeate the R&B-tinged soundscapes, making it impossible to know where the music will go next. Even my attempt at an in-depth review below doesn’t quite give the music justice. I warn you upfront because making the comparison to Burial is way too easy. But describing the shadowy alleyways that await you is difficult. Nevertheless, let’s dive in.
A classical guitar plucks as heavy bass rumbles under “Sun Dealer.” A voice asks, “So they have no government right now?” before skittering beats, flutes, and vocal samples flood the mix. A lonely woman cries “No Mercy” as jazzy cymbals splash over a bass line and manipulated vocal textures on “Mercy.” Polyrhythmic bells and pianos dance over a massive drum and growling basses on “White Flowers.” The track’s middle eastern vibe, bass glissandos, and dissonant timbres provide a perfect adrenaline rush and fuel the dark tone. On “Redline,” arpeggiated vocals and improvised horns drift over a soft beat at the start. But when the track’s dubstep/UK garage groove finally rolls, it’s impossible not to dance. Not to mention, the tempo change in the middle gloriously brings dissonant piano chords under chopped R&B vocals.
“Swan Dive” brings a horde of atmospheric synthesizers, beautiful melodies, and relaxed samples. However, it is increasingly contrasted by distorted beats and screaming leads, sounding akin to Warp Records’ earlier productions. The EP’s finale, “1000 Languages,” is a monumental 12-minute cacophony. It is almost impossible to detail what is heard, aside from the ambiance of rainy city streets and female vocals at the start. From there, gunshots and mammoth rhythms ring out before being swallowed by surreal ambient textures. Breakbeats, massive bass distortion, and computer sound effects blast in the middle, before turning dark in a swirl of synth pads. Around the 8-minute mark, cheery video game leads squeal over the earlier gunshot rhythms. The chaos abruptly ends in a soundscape of droning vocals and electronic glitches before fading away.
While “It’s A Big World” sometimes feels like a Burial homage, Asha Mirr pushes the boundaries beyond R&B sampled garage. The sounds throughout sample from African and Indian polyrhythms to avant-garde jazz and chiptune. Furthermore, the background ambiance feels less like Burial’s grainy atmospherics, and more like the soundtrack to governments in chaos. Think of “1984” or “Fahrenheit 451,” and you have an idea of what’s in store here. The dissonance and dance beats work together to unsettle the mind and move the body. Yet Mirr combines all of this into a richly rewarding and addictive listen. It’s an EP for both New York clubbers on rainy days and mountainous hermits who have stockpiled supplies for doomsday. Take a listen regardless which group you fall into.
Title: It’s A Big World
Artist: Asha Mirr
Genre: Dubstep/2-step garage/dark ambient
Available to download or purchase on limited edition cassette at http://music.businesscasual.biz/album/its-a-big-world!