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The Haul 2010: Cluster & Eno's Cluster & Eno and Burial's Burial

Along with the next few entries, these two self-titled LPs come courtesy of a 50% off used vinyl sale at the Norwood, MA Newbury Comics, the only location to carry it. They certainly had a lot of overpriced '80s wax to clear out, but fortunately there were some keepers in the lot.

10. Cluster & Eno – Cluster & Eno LP – 4 Men with Beards, 2007 [1977] – $6 (Newbury Comics in Norwood, 1/24)

Cluster & Eno's Cluster & Eno

I knew when I picked up Old Land, the compilation made from Cluster & Eno’s two LPs, that I would end up buying at least one of the original albums. I did not anticipate it happening so soon, but the price being right on the reissue pressing of the first of Cluster & Eno’s collaborations expedited the process.

What impressed me so much about Old Land was that the compilation held together as an album, with the synth-heavy side A deriving exclusively from 1978’s After the Heart and the comparatively somber side B primarily pulling from this 1977 collaboration. As expected, Cluster & Eno sticks with the somber ambience of those songs. Of the five songs new to me, three explore an ambient combination of subtle background synths and twinkling foreground piano. “Ho Renomo” and the short, nearly classical “Mit Samaen” are quite lovely. With its pulsing drum beat, “Selange” is the bridge to the remaining two new-to-me songs, “Die Bunge” and “One,” which branch out into new terrain. “Die Bunge” finds a cantering electronic pulse, like a futuristic cow-poke striding slowly into the horizon, and “One” predicts Eno’s later foray into world music on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with droning sitar and African percussion. These new songs are all worthy additions, but I’ve gone back to the closing track, “Für Luise,” most frequently. It features an alien cooing sound that’s at once friendly and eerie.

In hindsight, it feels like Eno took the lead on the first collaboration, and then Cluster’s electronic tendencies came to the forefront on After the Heat. If you’re interested in the Cluster side of things (or one of Brian Eno’s best vocal songs, “The Belldog,” which I seem to twitter about every week), start with After the Heat. If you’d prefer to stick with Brian Eno’s ambient explorations, Cluster & Eno is one of his better efforts in that field.

11. Burial – Burial 2LP – Hyperdub, 2006 – $6.50 (Newbury Comics in Norwood, 1/24)

Burial's Burial

When I went through best-of-the-decade album lists, Burial’s Untrue was one of the most frequent albums to appear that I hadn’t yet heard and had some desire to check out. (If you want to read that as a slight against Animal Collective, please, go ahead.) To be entirely honest, I’d missed the entire UK garage / dubstep / grime scene. My first, admittedly filtered taste was Burial’s collaboration with Four Tet on 2009’s “Moth” / “Wolf Cub” EP, but finding this marked-down copy of Burial’s first, self-titled album seemed like a good invitation to dip my toes in the pool.

It doesn’t take long to survey Burial’s instrumental palette: anxious rhythms, subwoofer-rumbling bass pulses, chopped-up vocal samples, unnerving synth noises, crackling surface noise, and the occasional affecting keyboard melody make up the bulk of these tracks. The lone exception is “Spaceape,” featuring Spaceape, which incorporates the British MC’s moody monologues. That song is the biggest indicator of my initial point of comparison—which I fully expect to embarrass people better-versed in electronic music than I am—which was Tricky’s early trip-hop albums, specifically the ghostly remnants of a track like “Overcome” from Maxinquaye. To be entirely frank, the specific reference point doesn’t matter as much as the idea that Burial is the ghostly remnants of it.

The highlights of the album demonstrate just how effective this dark, chilling mood can be. “Distant Lights” could be the sound of a club from a block away. Its chopped-up R&B vocals trim the fat, leaving only the choicest cuts. “Forgive,” based on a sample of Brian Eno’s glorious “An Ending (Ascent)” from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, could very well be the inversion of Eno’s own space exploration, choosing instead to peer up at the moon through gray smog. “Pirates” has flashes of energy, like car alarms triggering in the distance. I’m stuck on this idea of spatial distance playing a huge part in Burial’s songs, since each track feels like it’s been carved away from a larger original work, pulled away from an wider view. My mind keeps going to what’s absent.

It’s unlikely that this site will turn into This Month in Dubstep/Grime anytime soon, but as an uninformed glance into one of electronic music’s more prominent developments, Burial is a solid offering. I’ll certainly check out Untrue down the line.