Yet again, I'm admittingly far behind the curve on hearing amazing groups, and Labradford is only the latest in a long line. It's not that I don't hear about them, or even hear their music, but it just seems like sometimes it takes me a lot longer than it should to actually go out and purchase a full-length album by a group, even when I know that I'm probably going to like it.
A Stable Reference is the second full-length by the two-person group Labradford (they just released their fifth full-length in early 1999) and once again, I think that I'm going to have to go out and find more of their music as soon as I get the chance. In terms of overall feeling I got when listening to their music, the first actual word that came to mind was, "dreary." Expanding on that single word, I must say that there's something about good, depressing music that seems to hit me bullseye no matter what mood I'm in when I listen to it. Labradford is like that to me. It's not depressing in a king-of-pain, mope-rock sort of way, but in the general aura of the disc just reminds one of bleak, dreary days spent inside.
As with all of the music I've heard by the group, there's an overall minimal-is-more quality. The disc starts out with an ominous rumbling on "Mas" that churns it's way throughout while a lonely guitar is plucked away in the background. The rumbling is never metallic or even really harsh, but it definitely has a nice doom factor to it. Things are again stripped down to only 3 elements on the track "El Lago." It starts out with a very lonely organ drone, but soon a single guitar is added along with some whispered vocals. Eventually, the anti is upped with the addition of an interwinding bass and an organ swells but it never moves out of it's legargic state. The next track "Streamlining" reaches what is probably a pinnacle of happiness on the disc with decipherable (in a few spots) lyrics and a lighter-sounding guitar part, but again, there is no drum line and just the simple accompaniment of a bass guitar and some choice shimmering organ.
Things stick with that formula somewhat until the fifth track "Eero," when things go into an extended drone session for about 7 minutes. The already-minimal sound is stripped even further for the track, down to only an undulating wash of sound, with occassional bits of noise dropped onto the surroundings every once in awhile. At one point, the very-distant sound of a guitar can be heard, but it falls away before the ears can even specify where it was coming from. The album closes with three more meditations in mellow minimalism before finishing with a somewhat disconcerting bit of screeching noise as a main element in the track "SEDR 77." It's not forefront enough to cause great alarm, and eventually it seems to fall into the background, but it definitely grates more than other tracks.
Overall, the album has some brilliant moments, offset with other parts that just seem to run on a little bit too long. Without any real rhythm track to speak of, it's definitely more for those who can handle droning, slow-paced music. It's a very rewarding album, though, and one that works even better when you're just a little on the grey side of things.