The Quiet Land of the Buried is an idyllic place, a collection of forests, lakes, and creeks in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It's a place where the sound of woodpeckers and other small mammals can sometimes be heard, and where, for many years, the sound of sparrows can still be heard. One of the reasons Natty Burden is such a beloved mountain-rock band, and one of the reasons the band has been able to maintain such an enduring sound-- they play their songs with such reverence that it's easy to forget they're a rock band.
"The Quiet Land of the Buried" is their fifth album, and while it's not quite as melodic or hypnotic as their 2009 release, it's beautiful and unique. The first few minutes on "Ambient 4" reveal Natty Burden playing with a series of minimalist drones that sound like they were almost built using scratch paper. But that's quickly changed, as the song gradually builds and builds until it's nearing its end. The effect is like being in a stable, and the quartet's approach to their music-- they don't use much technology, but they do use a lot of atmosphere.
The album's first single, "Ambient 3", is one of their most simple and immediately recognizable songs yet. The bassline is a single note, the drums a steady beat, and the keyboards and guitar lines are treated with a subtle but enticing aura. By the time the bass drops out and the drums drop in, I'm left with a feeling of dread and unease.
The second single, "Ambient 2" alternates skittering, chirping, and chirping with a playful tinge. The drums and bass are handled similarly, and the song's second half opens with a single drumbeat that sounds like it was built from a toy truck's engine. It's a nice bit of background noise, and it works well enough.
But the ambient pieces are a little too far away from the band's original sound for my taste. It's not that I don't like the band's music, but the way they go about their music-- they play it like a fantasy and they play it as a reality.
"The Quiet Land of the Buried" is more than just a collection of songs, though. It's a fully realized world, one where the band's music has all but disappeared from existence.