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Song of the Week: Burial – Temple Sleeper

Burial’s not a stranger on Live in Limbo. We’ve discussed him and our admiration for his music a number of times. In fact, his song Come Down To Us topped our Best Songs of the Decade (So Far) list. Throw in all of his EP releases and singles since his second album Untrue, and you have a spectacular discography just from light (but very important) releases. We’ve had a new surprise early in 2015 (while 2014 was pretty quiet for Burial, save for whatever could be found on the Hyperdub compilations). We didn’t get an EP, but instead just a single called Temple Sleeper. Could this lead up to a new album, since it sits alone?

Maybe not. It’s unlike the majority of his work and there’s a good chance that Burial felt that this song may not have fit anywhere. It’s by far his most upbeat song, and if you took away the high melody and the vinyl crackles from this song, it would barely ring like a Burial track (especially that Prodigy-esque ending). Sure, Rival Dealer had many melodic moments that are unlike Burial’s old style, but Temple Sleeper even surpasses that as Burial’s most mainstream sounding song. This sparked a bit of a backlash online, as this wasn’t the same work people expect from Burial.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It’s different, and who is to tell Burial that he can’t try something new? The first half is the better half with its uplifting skip of a beat. There is a very devious bass line hidden well underneath the mix, but this song is to be trusted for the most part. That’s until it breaks out into a Mortal Kombat-like break out with two minutes to go. The song then becomes a full out house track from the early 2000’s. This could very well be the kind of stuff that made Burial want to make music as a kid. Somehow, all of these styles mix together; Not swimmingly, but well enough. The song is also noticeably short (nearly seven minutes) for one that contains three movements (especially when the first movement takes up the majority of the song). The different styles just pop out at you, and you grow to accept them as they aren’t too obnoxious about it.

It’s a possible tribute song, and it makes sense that it’d be released by itself. It really has no place on any Burial release. This is true, unless this is, in fact, a promotional single for a new Burial full length, which I doubt but can be very wrong about. To me, Temple Sleeper was a track Burial wanted to share with the world to tide us over for another release (EP or album; whichever). We do know that Burial works on his own terms by now, right? Grimes was bashed online for her single Go last year for also being her most mainstream work yet, and she ended up scrapping an entire album because of it. Maybe Burial was avoiding that same mistake?

Nonetheless, we’re expecting way too much from Burial. I am part of this guilty party with the amount of times I go on to say he’s one of the most important producers of our age (which is a claim I still happily stick by). He hasn’t released anything bad, and I wouldn’t even say Temple Sleeper is a letdown. Many of us are expecting full on masterpieces all the time. Yes, Burial has released some breathtaking songs and albums/EPs with great experiences attached to them. He wasn’t trying to take over the world with these. He wanted to make the music he wanted to make, and, luckily for us, his experiments were glorious. Temple Sleeper isn’t any different. It’s fun, light, short and sweet. Perhaps we are used to more thought provoking work from this UK producer mastermind, and we should stop expecting only that from Burial. If anything, Temple Sleeper as a stand alone song could be Burial’s way of telling us to lighten up. It is an entertaining song. It isn’t one of Burial’s best, but can’t we just enjoy it for what it is? It’s nice to see Burial have a playful and joyful side for once, and not every song he makes absolutely has to be a therapeutic and soul cleansing adventure.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.