Planning For Burial – Below the House (2017)

planning for burial below the house

Planning for Burial is the moniker of Pennsylvania based musician Thom Wasluck. Not only does he play, record, and mix every instrument on his albums, but he also performs live by himself, with drums and extra instrumentation pre-recorded. This seems like an awful lot of hassle, but it’s this attention to detail that makes Below the House such a fantastic listening experience.

The album opens with “Whiskey and Wine” – a song that’s based around this slow, brooding, but massive guitar riff. Despite being just a few distorted chords played at a crawling pace, the pounding guitar and drums engulf you. It’s probably the heaviest moment on the album, as the distorted vocals begin to scream and intermittent guitar feedback swirls. But here he also chooses to add a glockenspiel, giving a bit of hope to an otherwise unrelenting track. This song, for me, is one of the most cathartic pieces of music to come out in the last number of years, and it makes for a very strong start.

One thing that Planning for Burial does very well is create atmosphere. This entire album feels like you are helplessly floating through time and space, and no track does this better than “Dull Knife”. This song is split into two parts, and spans more than one third of the album. The first part is mostly instrumental, and features some great guitar work. The guitar in the second part is more airy and cleaner than the rest of the album. The lyrics stand out on this track too. The singing is usually quite low in the mix, but here it is more of a focus. He describes himself “rolling across rooftops”, and compares himself to fog. He appears to be lost, and trying to find his way back to someone. Towards the end of the track, he repeats the chant “calling me back home” – this repetition partly being what makes the lyrics stand out so much.

This is an album that doesn’t rush. Instead, it takes its time to build to something rewarding. Some of the tracks are really just about creating an atmosphere. Two instrumental tracks, “Past Lives” and “(Something)”, split the album in half. The former is an ambient piece, with a very lo-fi aesthetic, while the latter is a beautiful synth interlude. Here, we are offered a moment of calm and clarity in a world of moody guitars and sparse but emotional lyricism. Though there are glimpses of hope scattered throughout the album, we are left on quite a dark note. The final track, “Below the House”, is more stripped back than the rest of the album. Centered around some bass guitar chords, Wasluck sings in a whisper, repeating the line “my love” over and over. It’s all very unsettling, but makes for a very enjoyable closing track.

Amidst dissonant guitars and lo-fi ambient soundscapes, Planning for Burial creates some moments of real beauty on this record. The fact that they are peppered between such chaos and hopelessness ultimately enhances the experience. It makes us all the more grateful for them. The detailed and dense instrumentation on this record also really sets it apart. Every fuzzy guitar, every screech of feedback, every synth, every piano key – they all layer and grow to form sweeping walls of sound and triumphant climaxes.

Author: Cian

Cian is an Irish grad student and aspiring musician. He has previously written album reviews for his university newspaper. A complete music obsessive, he spends most of his waking hours listening to, discussing, and reading about music!

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