Humming Quietly: Planning For Drone Greatness
Imagine Trent Reznor never had his recent final phase and we were never exposed to that post-Fragile laptop rock. Picture instead that he signed to Southern Lord, mourned New Orleans after Katrina, and wrote a bunch of great doom-drone guitar dirges. If all of that were a pop-culture reality then we would have something like Planning For Burial’s Leaving.
Leaving begins as it ends, quietly, though emotionally inversely so. The album’s opener, “Wearing Sadness and Regret Upon Our Faces”, strums along for a minute before plugging in and exploding with heaviness. But don’t get this expression wrong—this isn’t Baroness heaviness; it’s Earth heaviness. It’s meaningfully slow, pained, and lost in droned feedback. Planning for Burial is guided in the sense of composition, but what we feel from its tones and images is entirely subjective.
I listened to Leaving several times throughout a sunny Heartland week, driving to and from my office and contemplating what other things I might write. En route to someplace, my wife joined me in the car and as the stereo ramped its volume upward she remarked, “Wow, I’m going to cry”. Of course, she didn’t, because that’s our regular sardonicism. But it’s true—a single minute of Leaving and you very well may be ready for the fishes. That’s the greatest thing about it. Nostalgic emotion is labyrinthian, and that’s truly what’s channeled here.
“Memories You’ll Never Feel Again” marches, expressed by its satellite-transmitted lead line, into its post-rock climax before seamlessly weaving into the very metallic “Oh Pennsylvania, Your Black Clouds Hang Low”. Each track, both finishing at five minutes in length, is equal weight, not as much pummeling us as driving us to thought the way any dark day would. It isn’t until “Humming Quietly” that my Trent Reznor reference makes total sense: Here the opening passage sounds similar enough to the beginning layered-guitar riff of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the Whole World Went Away” that I’m just welcome to be back at the apocalypse.
After ascent, “We Left Our Bodies with the Earth” holds us in distortion for a third of its length, relieving our ears to the beautiful kind of drone sequence that gives way to my only good criticism of Leaving: There are nine songs on the album and each is strong for its pedal-made girth. The blearing fuzz for Leaving’s every drone could use some more relief. Whole dynamically-low sequences are what make drone groups like Stars of the Lid. Planning for Burial, for whatever greatness is to come, should take that one criticism. Because when we’re dead, crushed by memory, or gone someplace that doesn’t take to reality, well, it’s in those times that things tend to get pretty quiet.