In a 2007 interview with The Wire, Burial revealed that "Archangel," arguably his best-known track, was inspired by the death of his dog. As part of the Burial mythology, the detail feels almost quaint, even darkly comic. Burial, after all, is an artist credited with soundtracking the melancholy of not just his London hometown, but that of an entire disassociated generation. On Claustro / State Forest, he moves further away from the eerie sadness of "Archangel" while returning to the UK garage shuffle that drove it forwards. Here, the South Londoner explores a set of emotions that are trickier to decipher, but no less satisfying.
Arriving two years after his last solo record, "Claustro" is a banger. But that description masks how weird it actually is. Burial deploys a high-tempo 2-step beat and looping R&B refrain (Googling the lyrics provided no answers as to the sample.) Such parts should be recognisable to anyone familiar with the first two Burial albums, but then an ungainly synth melody begins. The hi-hats become more furious, the beat stretching and struggling to keep up until what feels like the point of collapse. The track is tense for most of its five minutes, until it ends on an emotional curveball of goofy chipmunk vocals and a cornball, mid-'90s trance melody. This coda recalls the tongue-in-cheek sentimentalism of "Hiders," albeit lodged firmly in the hardcore continuum.
"State Forest" picks up where the gloomy ambient textures of "Subtemple / Beachfires" left off. A mournful tone rings across a foggy atmosphere of echoey clicks, distant field recordings and layered, reverb-drenched synths. For all the video game samples Burial has used over his 15-year career (most famously from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty), "State Forest" is perhaps the closest he's come to realising a plausible video game soundscape. There are small details buried in the mix—the flick of a Zippo lighter, the exhale of breath—which suggest a narrative. The end of the track slowly builds to a mini-crescendo, the vocals mixing with what sound like wind chimes and other delicate frequencies. It feels like Burial's usual London-centric outlook has been swapped for something harder to place.
Claustro / State Forest twists familiar aspects of Burial's output—slippery, R&B-inflected rhythms and impressionistic mood pieces—into subtly augmented shapes. It lacks the cohesion of some of his most successful post-Untrue releases (Rival Dealer, Truant), but once the vinyl crackle stops, we're left adrift, the echoes of Burial's soundworld ringing throughout our own.