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Planning for Burial make bleak drones for aging towns

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Thom Wasluck was born in and is currently a citizen of Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania. That’s where I grew up as well. It’s a coal-mining region that stopped coal mining generations back. Thirty years ago the area was still dotted with giant heaps of black slag; there were even urban legends about how kids would get sucked into it like quicksand. The Wilkes-Barre population is old and getting older—young people leave when they can. When I was last there, every third business seemed to be a funeral parlor, which may explain the name of Wasluck’s one-man project: Planning for Burial. His latest album, Below the House (The Flenser), is a lyrical mix of drone and slowcore, an ominously bland elegy for nowhere in particular. “Whiskey and Wine,” inspired by Wasluck’s alcoholism, moves toward heavy funeral doom, with whining tones rising above the trudging grief and screaming, despairing vocals. “Warmth of You” has a gentler, indie Sonic Youth vibe. The lyrics are sung rather than screamed and remain suffused with failure: “I’m trying . . . I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried” isn’t an affirmation but a prelude to giving up. The two-part “Dull Knife” is a textured wall of feedback for you to nod your head to under gray skies for 16 minutes. I wouldn’t exactly say the album made me homesick, but it did make me feel unsettled and sad, thinking of home.   v

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