burial – subtemple/beachfires


At the end of May, Burial released his Subtemple/Beachfires 10”. Always a divisive artist, this one seemed to upset almost everyone. I’ve always been more Forgive than Archangel but at first I wasn’t sure about it either. But I kept coming back. Burial does that, drags you back. I wrote this piece below trying to explain why I now love it.


I am walking the shrinking tow-path, away from the over-manicured section of the canal with its renovated canal-boat homes[1] and working flight of locks, its hand-painted flower-pots and necker-chiefed bonhomie, away from the sanitised history made leisure, and towards the remains of the canal’s original raison d’etre. Leaving the cut verges and gravel behind, the tow path is cracked tarmac. To the right, the canal and to the left, leaning Marsh Woundwart, Cow Parsley and towering Buddleia. On the opposite bank, the solid brick of Victorian industrial expansion houses scrap-merchant and tyre yard. We have left the enthusiastic Digital Start Ups, Artizan Brewery and Artisanal Bakeries behind. Out here, each building’s individual wharf is fenced over and topped with barbed wire.  Over here, on the path, the dog-poo remains unbagged.

At the apex of a geometrically accurate left bend stands the final stage of the journey, an over-elaborate Victorian wrought-iron footbridge, strangely blue, mottled with rust and mosses. Cross this to the other bank, descend and you are plunged into a dark alley between two of the last three warehouses. Walk the length, glass crunching underfoot, mind the brambles, and you emerge, blinking, into a large yard. Here the warehouses are abandoned. Structurally sound and handsome, they are just too inaccessible to be usefully re-purposed now that the canal is old hat, and they are heavily boarded up against human trespass. Steel shutters riveted deep into the brickwork, they have the air of old tombs forever sealed in case someone attempts to raise their occupants. Signs and Runes warn of violent death to any grave-robber or necromancer who would break the seals: Do Not Enter! Dangerous Structure! Risk of Electrocution! Silent, still, these three massive mausoleums glower, abandoned in their hidden location.

Yet it is not fear of the ghost of canal-side commerce that has led to such precautions. The dread spectre is of a much more recent phenomenon. One that is the antithesis of the cosy comfort of the whistling kettles and body warmers of the canal-boat dwellers, one that truly represents the authenticity and independent spirit the bearded and bicycling brewers and bakers espouse. It is the Ghost of Rave.

On and off, over a couple of summers six or seven years ago, the middle of the three warehouses was one of London’s last bastions of real rave culture. The carnivalesque cavalcade would arrive and set-up as social media sirens called to the faithful and the curious. Unlicensed, unregulated, the bass tested the tolerance of both structural integrity and the distant, would-be slumberers of West Ealing.  In the end, sleep-deprived locals won and the warehouses locked down tight, their still reverberating interiors sealed forever. All three were marooned, surrounded by gate-free chain-link and razor-wire and the access road reduced the rubble. But they forgot the bridge.

Since then I have been sporadically visiting the forever closed doors and I’m not the only one, although the tags they leave as proof of their pilgrimage are becoming less frequent. I visit to press my ear to the cold steel shutters, to hear the Ghost of Rave. At first it was railing, its booming echoes and trapped snatches of dismembered melody, of broken vocals, told of loss and betrayal. They sparked flashbacks. And flashes of a future, a future that might have been. But recently it’s been fading, the bass has all but gone. Now, a deep, disorientated melancholy has set in. You have to listen carefully. Close your eyes. There, decaying reverb tails, the occasional click, a dislocated voice in the void, echoing. Static. Silence upon silence.

Silence upon silence.

[1] Why do their owners insist on calling them ‘restored’? You want to restore a canal boat?  Fill it with coal.

burial sub temple 2


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