With truly great albums, you can often remember the moment when they first grabbed your attention. You’re listening to something new, perhaps a bit passively parsing all the novel information you’re being introduced to when something just switches and you find your attention suddenly wholly demanded. With Burial Grid‘s My Body Dissolves As I Watch and Dissolve (henceforth referred to as Body in this review), it’s safe to say that the first vocal lines on the album, featured on first track “Blinking Heads in Baskets”, will be that moment. Suddenly, the oppressive electronic music takes on a new vibe, as distorted vocals effects describe dissociation and other severe mental states and the music takes on a whole new aspect. This kind of unique marriage between theme and sound is what makes Body such a compelling release, fusing synthwave, darkwave, and experimental electronics into one difficult to digest but ultimately rewarding experience.
At the core of the album lie the myriad tones and sensibilities that made the 80’s electronic scene famous for its darkness and industrial vibe. “White Tunnel/Black Tunnel”, the second track on the album, is a great example of this. It opens up with these large, abrasive synth tones which, when combined with the basic beat of the track, create a landscape not as dramatic as something like, let’s say, SurgeryHead or Dan Terminusbut definitely as all-encompassing and dominant. Later on, some of the “size” of the tones used drops away and the track takes on a decidedly creepier, more haunting kind of atmosphere. Near its end, it plays around with the main beat of the track, agile electronic drums racing around the main throbbing theme, once again make thick and hulking by the tones utilized.
The other part of the album is the aforementioned vocals and how heavily they are featured on the album. For a genre that we today know as mostly instrumental, this kind of music actually featured vocals heavily during its hay-day. Burial Grid taps into that, using the lyrics to complement the dark atmosphere already created by the instruments themselves. It helps that the lyricism is top notch, daftly weaving a (post)modern tapestry of despair and desperate mental states. Check out some of the lyrics from what is probably one of the strongest tracks on the album, “Voids”:
“Two coins for the ambulance mouth
The ventilator sings a hollow song
I’d wait at the burning gates
But I wait at your side
My body dissolves as I watch and dissolve
Goddamn the bland days
We spent like flies
In a hazy loop of June
But the fields
All ache with frost
So drift into your void
And I’ll sink into mine“
The vocals effects utilized contrast the two most prominent vocals layers on the track. While the clean one sings over-sweet, the distorted one presents an uncanny mirror image of it, working against the more cheerful tones of the track and reminding us of the actual themes being sung about. This all melds expertly with the music, creating a fascinating pastiche of meaning, atmosphere, and mood. By the time the over the top guitars cut through the electronics, “Voids” has done a brilliant job of contrasting multiple approaches and bringing them together to tackle the complex subjects the track addresses.
There’s a lot more to be said about this release; it’s truly intricate and nuanced. Suffice it for now to say that if you’re looking for a different approach to “modern” electronic music, and specifically synth/dark wave, then Burial Grid is a project to be watching. It offers a unique perspective not only on the music itself but on how it can communicate with “the real world” and what sort of ideas and perspectives it can bring to bear on our lives and psyche.
Burial Grid’s My Body Dissolves As I Watch and Dissolve was released March 22nd, 2019. You can grab it from the project’s Bandcamp page above.