Planning For Burial’s recent release, Below The House, shows a notable refinement for one-man-band Thom Wasluck’s spacious blackened slowcore. While at parts there appears to be a resurgence of previously used pacing and chord progressions, Below The House’s strength comes through reworking these sounds into something that subtly coaxes the listener into a seamless hunt for ambient intricacies hidden underneath every sombre riff.
Opening track Whiskey and Wine is a perfect warm-up to the album and outlines what makes the rest of the album great right off the bat. Opening with an intertwined mix of grainy, slow riffing guitars and an airy ambient effect layered over the top, the listener is invited to focus on whatever one of the two reach out to them. These intricacies are scattered all throughout the album with an array of unexpected percussion darting underneath a wall of noise with forking riffs and ambience that often portray differing moods. It’s engaging to sit down and focus on the music as you try to figure out where the percussion comes in or what each subtlety is trying to convey, and by the end of Whiskey and Wine you’ll more than likely have attempted this. The track itself fades out to a beautiful mix of chime hits riddled over ambient synth, exiting similar to how autumn turns to winter – cold, encroaching and final.
Another strength of the album come from Wasluck’s charting of new territory as he pushes outside of his drawn out wall-of-noise tracks and into more experimental turf. Warmth of You takes his signature downtrodden progressions and ominous sound to a post-punk song structure, and the payoff is spectacular. Higher tempo drumming and riff work with sad synths floating over the music gives something change the pace of the album while also encouraging a cheeky headbang. Closing/title track Below The House experiments with a deeply unsettling two note bass riff, haunted by drawn out organ effects as he repeats the lyrical bar ‘my love’ over and over.
Dull Knife pt. I and II are a peaking point for the album and feature Wasluck in his element. Pt. I engulfs with a soaring riff above snappy drums, harsh and hard underlying chord progressions and vocals that both cut and wail before fading into a soft ambience. It breeds a sense of poignancy through warm echoing guitars before the near 12 minutes of pt. II kicks in. Pt. II keeps the listener submerged before the vocals draw you out of a bog, repeating ‘calling me back home / calling me back’ progressively louder and louder, as if snapping the entire listening experience back into reality with slow, pounding drums before abruptly cutting out with an isolated bass chug.
While at face value, Below the House can be applauded for its sense of mood and grit, the subtleties of this album are what makes it worth the repeated listens. The moods are so hugely complemented by obscured melodies and clever incorporation of unexpected instruments which reinvents a sound traditionally steeped in harshness. In many ways, it reinvents harshness itself, branding it with a spacious sorrow. Not only is Below the House Planning For Burial’s most polished release, but it’s also an excellent addition representation of an artist who’s only getting better.
Below The House can be streamed or purchased from Planning For Burial's Bandcamp, available here.