Labradford: Prazision LP

Originally issued in 1993, Labradford's Prazision holds the distinction of being kranky's premiere release. The Chicago-based label has decided to re-issue the recording in a newly remastered, 70-minute form that now includes “Preserve the Sound Outside,” the B-side to the group's first single, “Everlast,” which was itself a bonus on the original release. Labradford's sound was distinctive from the outset: eschewing beats altogether, Carter Brown and Mark Nelson merged blurry waves of electric guitar fuzz and keyboards with whispered vocals in a lo-fi manner different from anything that had come before. It's also interesting to revisit the album in light of the recent upsurge in psychedelic folk; certainly haunted settings like “Splash Down” convincingly argue for Labradford as a prescient forerunner of the genre.

Prazision finds Labradford in rawer and, obviously, embryonic form, a much different group than the one that would appear on 1996's Labradford and its sequels, the understated and refined Mi Media Naranja and E luxo so. In time, Brown and Nelson would be joined by bassist Bobby Donne and would augment its sound with strings, Fender Rhodes, slide guitar, dulcimer, and samples, but the essence of the group is already in place on Prazision, especially on songs like “C. of People,” where whispered vocals drift through a blurry field of organ and guitars, and “Listening in Depth,” where phantom tones stretch over grimy industrial loops. Nelson's vocals exude a disturbing, even slightly menacing, quality in their first appearance (“Accelerating on a Smoother Road ”); far sunnier is “Soft Return” where his whisper is augmented by an enchanting guitar melody and sleigh bells. “Experience the Gated Oscillator,” “Skyward with Motion,” and “Everlast” traffic in a slow-burning, guitar-drenched style that calls to mind German space-rock at its trippiest and that Labradford abandoned in subsequent albums. By contrast, the church-like ambiance of “Disremembering” foreshadows the group's later embrace of a quieter and more meditative style. Throughout Prazision, we hear the duo experimenting, trying out different ideas and sampling future possibilities (e.g., layering a spoken voiceover over burning guitar lines in “Disremembering,” merging Kraftwerk's Radioactivity with church organ in “Gratitude”)—not all of it equally successful but boldly explorative nonetheless.

December 2007