There aren’t many labels that balance consistency and quality quite like The Flenser. Since launching in 2009, the San Francisco-based curator of “dark experimental” music has presented some of the best bands fitting of this classification. And though it was probably due to my own personal taste evolving more than anything else, 2014 seemed to be a particularly phenomenal year for The Flenser’s roster, complete with incredible releases from Botanist, Have a Nice Life, Kayo Dot, White Suns and Wreck and Reference. But of all these gems, perhaps the most lasting release from the bunch has been Planning for Burial‘s Desideratum, Thom Wasluck’s captivating blend of shoegaze and ambient drone that feels like an organic, non-GMO version of Jesu‘s poppy doom metal.
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This is the kind of shoegaze that transcends the hazy tempest; an album as indebted to guitar effects as “whiskey, long drives, late nights and bad sleep.” And while these may have been some of Wasluck’s self-admitted inspirations for Desideratum, they seem like more appropriate descriptors for “Whiskey and Wine,” the lead single from his forthcoming album Below the House. Though he describes the album as “super personal,” this admission wasn’t necessary; each listen makes this point abundantly clear. And more notably, he makes it even more apparent that his latest offering will be a much rawer outlier in P4B’s discography.
What hints toward this distinction is the prominent themes of black metal throughout the track. From the gargantuan blackgaze riffs reminiscent of Lantlôs to Wasluck trading in his ethereal croons for piecing shrieks, everything about “Whiskey and Wine” feels like P4B amplified to a new level. Admittedly, the track is an overall short affair, reliant more on its immediate strengths rather than the building meditations found on Desideratum and Wasluck’s older projects. But this brevity makes sense given it’s the opening track, and it certainly grabs attention with ease due to both its stark contrast to what fans will expect and its overall terse but fulfilling development.
This arc concludes with a blissful bell melody, which begins shimmering beneath the feedback-laden murk before glistening in a field of ambiance. It’s perhaps the most familiar sound palate present on the track, though the preceding surprises serve an important purpose in both crafting a complete, fulfilling piece and spurning desire for knowing what else Wasluck will offer with Below the House.
Below the House is being released via The Flenser on 3/10, with pre-order options available tomorrow, Friday January 6 at 10am PT.