Words by Jordan Martich
After spending his 20s in New Jersey, Planning for Burial’s Thom Wasluck came home to Pennsylvania. There, he found himself drinking heavily and newly uncomfortable in a place he’d once called home.
“I felt like I tried for this record to be more about aggression and people are more affected by the sadness,” he says of his latest effort, Below the House. “I’ve been thinking about lately how that sadness becomes an underlying aggression in people and they just don’t know what to do.”
Wasluck, the solitary force behind experimental-heavy project Planning for Burial, unleashed his most powerful record to date with Below the House this year. It’s an album about isolation, and about becoming acutely aware of the routines, structures, and habits that form, however regrettably, our lives. This album scrutinizes the brave face we take in conquering those systems, and the relief found in exploring the vulnerability behind it all.
It’s also an album that shirks intimate lyrics for big songs and emotional clarity. “The whole point of the title being Below the House — it’s about hiding your true feelings away,” Wasluck said. “Keep everyone happy and don’t let them know the shit you’re going through.”
Largely, the success of these compositions is in Wasluck’s ability to invite the listener into a state of hypnosis, to embrace the repetition like a warm bed. Accepting a place in the dream of Wasluck’s music feels cleansing, if only for the few minutes before the tones are reverse-engineered into the next track. The dullness of routine and the void of loneliness are taken to task with cluttered atmospheric layers, only to be broken back to simple melancholic patterns. He saddles his writing process on the back of a type of erosion: using time to digest and break away elements of songs while keeping what is meaningful to build upon.
“I might not like a song and do a big chunk over a day or two of recording it, and then I might not touch that song for a few months, until I feel like recording again,” said Wasluck. “That’s what it comes down to with letting things digest for a while. If something’s not working I’ll just let it go.”
The eclecticism on display in Below the House reaches new peaks for Planning for Burial. One might find a Nick Cave-meets-My Bloody Valentine-meets-Prurient vibe on “Somehwere in the Evening,” but rather than retreating into those references one at a time, Wasluck’s creation is something else entirely — the vision of someone with too much time on their hands. On Below the House, we bounce between the hot anger of tracks like “Whiskey and Wine” and the somber, ghostly “Warmth of You,” but there’s plenty of space in between these aesthetic bookends to make Planning for Burial’s endeavors lovely and intriguing. For Wasluck though, the influences and intention never directly affect his art.
“I don’t ever plan to do anything. When I have it in my head I’ll just start working on something. If it becomes something, then I’m happy,” said Wasluck. “I’m just trying to write music that I’m happy with at a certain point in time.”
Jordan Martich is a writer and musician living in Oakland. He drinks too much coffee and doesn’t go to the beach enough.