Labfield: Bucket of Songs

Labfield's undergone some pretty significant changes since its debut album Fish Forms appeared on Bottrop-Boy in 2008. Until recently a duo project featuring Swedish guitarist David Stackenäs (Fire! Orchestra) and Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach (Huntsville), the group has grown into a trio for its third album, Bucket of Songs, with the addition of Giuseppe Ielasi (guitar, electronics) as a full member (he guested on the second Labfield album Collab, which appeared on Hubro five years ago) and ostensibly turns into a quartet on a number of songs with the addition of vocalist Mariam Wallentin.

Personnel changes aren't the only thing that have happened in Labfield's world: the group's sound has witnessed a dramatic shift away from the drones-based soundscaping documented on the earlier releases to the concise structures presented on Bucket of Songs. That's not to suggest, however, that the album material is Top 40 by any stretch of the imagination. While some parts are rendered accessible by Wallentin's contributions, others are resolutely experimental and improv-heavy, even if it contained by modest lengths. The group's experimental side is well-accounted for in the miniature dronescape “Ragged Line Reversed” and vocal-inflected moodpieces “Page 55” and “Last Passacaglia.”

In wedding rapid guitar picking to Zach's inventive percussive flurries, the rambunctious reverie “Temporary Reasons” locates itself halfway between Afrobeat and Western country music, whereas the stripped-down meditation “The Boy Who Never Remembered To Forget” plays like an excerpt from some electroacoustic session laid down in Bali. Elsewhere, intermittent guitar strums imbue the electronic freeflow of “Bucket Of Songs” with a peaceful aura, and, in the most song-styled setting, “Members Crossed,” Wallentin freely emotes at the forefront while the others shadow her impassioned vocalizations with guitar picking, vibes, and percussive shadings. A key part of the album's appeal lies in its unpredictability, that each song brings with it the promise of a new adventure and a different side of Labfield's eclectic persona. And like the perfect guest, in weighing in at a lean thirty-eight minutes Bucket of Songs doesn't overstay its welcome.

April 2015