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Rival Dealer review
on 11 January 2014
"Rival Dealer" is the most divisive release of Will Bevan's career, replacing the claustrophobic darkness and understated beauty of his previous work with a newfound celebratory spirit that occasionally strays into cheesiness. There are moments of transcendent brilliance here, but also an awkwardness. The juxtaposition of light and darkness can be jarring. The title track begins with frenetic jungle and a vocal sample from Gavin DeGraw's "More Than Anyone", but then abruptly transforms into aching ambience, deeply evocative woodwind and saxophone, and a sampled voice enthusing about the city lights at night, ending with "one night, I saw something come down to us." Second track "Hiders" employs 1980s synth pads and cringeworthy drums that wouldn't sound out of place on a chart-topping Christmas power ballad. Burial's talent for drum programming was showcased to devastating effect on early tracks like "Distant Lights", so to hear him using beats like this is so unexpected that it's almost to be applauded. But while it may be conceptually defiant, it's still sonically conservative. The pitchshifted vocal samples, meanwhile, are as beautiful as anything in Burial's canon. Final track "Come Down To Us" mixes warm synths with an almost atonal sitar, and at around 7 and a half minutes introduces Christmas bells and a triumphantly cheesy melody. The track closes with an excerpt from a speech by transgender film-maker Lana Wachowski, leading some to speculate as to Burial's intended message with this EP. All three tracks are conflicted and endlessly contradictory. The ambiguity of the sound is both frustrating and fascinating. There are sufficient moments of beauty to make this a vital purchase for Burial's existing fanbase, but at the same time it's a difficult listen.