Sssh! This sixth album from post-rock trio Labradford is firmly on the quiet side of the genre. Its precise ambience is unobtrusive but interesting - on the face of it, their music doesn't seem to do very much. Indeed it doesn't by conventional standards, it's just very economical, filling its space with as little sound as possible, but in quite an effective way. Labradford have that same clean, precise, instrumentation as Tortoise, but none of their jazzy rhythmic jerkiness, and none of the earth-shattering dynamics of the Montreal post-rock crowd. Instead, the four tracks of "fixed:context" all share the same spirit of subtle, spacious musing.
This approach is shown perfectly on the side-long "twenty". A melancholy organ hum emerges from electronic twittering, eventually joined by two twangy, countryish guitars. The guitars converse with the same figures throughout the twenty minutes, with subtle dynamics, a very gradual swell throughout the piece. At twelve minutes, some quiet glitchy electronics increase the tension very slightly. You almost don't notice when a tinkly keyboard joins in. Don't check your speakers at the end of "twenty", because that dog-worrying screech is part of the music. The three shorter pieces are in much the same style, led by those crisply picked guitars. "David" is the most expansive, coloured with little cinematic keyboard swells.
"fixed:context" isn't something you'd throw on casually. It's probably too stubbornly quiet for most tastes, and it's quite picky about what environment it gets played in - it needs darkness and distraction-free space to fill.
August 11, 2007