I'll be the first person to admit that I've not been in the best of moods during this last late summer and fall. I'm not quite sure whether it's a chemical imbalance, things in my personal life taking their toll on me, or a weird combination of both. Not only have I lived the hermit life too many Friday and Saturday nights to remember, but sometimes the only thing that would bring a smile to my face would be a cold wind that blew straight through my clothes and chilled me to the bone or the sight of leaves falling from the trees.
Due to this, I've found that my musical interests have been appropriately influenced. Instead of keeping a regular ration of somewhat bubbling tunes to keep me afloat during the cold evenings, I've found myself falling further and further into dreary, depressing things that only end up feeding my somewhat reclusive nature (and fortunately my productivity as well). One of the groups that have caught my attention in a big way has been Labradford. I'd heard their name mentioned many times before on sites that I enjoyed and finally took the plunge into their analogue-soaked world a couple months back. It was definitely a good thing.
Prazision is not only the groups first full-length album, but the first release on the amazing Kranky Record label as well. It came out way back in 1993, but I feel the need to review it in hopes that somewhat else out there finds solice in an album of such despairing sounds (as I have). Comprised of Carter Brown and Mark Nelson, the group plays a slow mixture of drone rock and ambient noise that never exactly falls on the happy side of the rainbow. In addition to showing off the darker side of several moogs, their instrumentation includes a 12 string guitar, tape loops, tons of old keyboards, and vocals (sometimes vocordered to nice effect). One of the more interesting things about the release is that there is no rhythm section at all on the album. There are no drums and no thump of a bass to speak off, just washes of finely layered sound (vocals included in the mix) that provide well over an hour of drifting time.
Starting out with a track that is comprised of nothing but several layers of subtle feedback, the album then moves into sort of a creepy western-sounding number called "Accelerating On A Smoother Road." With only the strum of a guitar and some haunting noise in the background, the vocals sound even more lonely and stark than they would if they were the only element in the mix. The only song that could possibly be mistaken for something that is happy arrives in the form of the sixth track entitled "Soft Return." It has the same hazy drift of background noises, but a lighter guitar melody and some jingling bells that accompany the vocals give it almost an uplifting feel. It only lasts for so long, though, and then the disc goes right back into it's melancholy mode with "Sliding Glass" and "C. Of People."
Overall, it's kind of a seminal release for a first recording. Although drone groups had been around before Labradford (and many electronic artists had experimented in extremely minimal releases), they pulled off a cohesive album with some lyrical pieces that works quite well. Not only that, but they took a bunch of instruments known for their wacky sounds (like the moog) and encorporated them into the mix in a way that really works to create an encompasing feel that lasts over an hour (still their longest release to date). If you haven't listened to something of this nature, it might be best to ease into things lest you find yourself bored with what on first listen might seem rather repetitive. It's definitely a subtle recording, and somewhat testing, but if you're in a funk (and I can attest to this), it's an album that will echo your sentiments.