Six years since a proper album and the elegiac music of Burial has only gotten better, shedding the rhythmic constraints of 4/4 techno for living, breathing EP suites that don’t climb toward peaks so much as unfold like stories. Rival Dealer is pure ambience, subbing out the natural grandeur of beaches and canyons for the sound of lonely city streets at night, haunted by occasional beats and vinyl crackle that blankets the mix like light rain.
Most surprising here is how he handles vocals: Once reliant on house-music divas warped almost beyond recognition, now he favors choirboys and spoken-word appeals from hard-luck people just looking for a little peace of mind — a less unusual approach than he took on Burial and Untrue but one that makes the uplifting, almost churchlike subtext of his music clearer than it’s ever been. The key is balance: For every Moby-like turn toward the assurance of a loving and transcendent hand is another jag down a dark, moderately threatening alleyway. Supple, mysterious, more abstract than anything he’s done before but paradoxically more immediate, Rival Dealer fulfills what the promise of his music has been all along: the sound of public places long after the people have left.