Review Summary: Ambient keys and guitars + drone mentality + a variety of concise melodies = E Luxo So
Sometimes over complicating matters can ruin a good thing, a problem that extends across all genres or trends and generally breeds within attempts at feigning an over exaggerated musical prowess. The Richmond, VA native post-ambient-electro-drone rock trio that is Labradford demonstrates on their fifth studio album that simplicity is capable of just as much merit. Being but a bassist (Robert Donne), a guitarist (Mark Nelson) and a keyboardist (Carter Brown) at face value, the three manage to mask themselves in this simplicity as a standard act sans a drummer. Don't let them fool you, however, into thinking this will be driven by drum machines or arrays of glitches, as factors such as rhythm or percussion aren't even in the back seat to the ideas that are constructed here. In E Luxo So
, there is instead a lingering contemplative air that gently shifts the motives swirling about themselves into a pleasingly delicate balance of appreciative development that remains mostly free of lull or slump.
One of the quirks of the record are, quite obviously, the track names (or lack of them had you purchased it via iTunes). Rather than entitle the six songs here, the tracks are instead named by inserting lines from the album's credits. Not a gimmick, nor an attempt at being cute or odd, this method of naming the tracks seems to stand as a textual representation of what the band is aiming for. It is though their main focus on the record, and the one they intend to draw attention to, is emphasized in how they go about carefully crafting each sound. As implied within the track names, it is revealed that aside from the standard guitars and keys they also include a dulcimer (though they do not clarify that it is a hammered one). On top of that a harpsichord and organ are also implemented generally as accompaniments and the strings present are both bowed and plucked, the latter method flirting with the idea of eastern influence in the second track with John Morand and Assisted by Brian Hoffa
Even Donne and Nelson's guitars are oftentimes reversed and usually serve more as an ambient backdrop, rarely taking the forefront of the waves for too long. In this record Labradford generally stray away from the droning nature of previous records and instead highlight a single or a series of melodic motives, prolonging them as layers of separate instruments seep into the mix. Rather than the sense of repetition or redundancy each recurring motive sounds more like an expansion about the last, as though the musical phrase itself has been stretched out in order to appreciate each tiny part. Of all the instruments here, the piano ends up being the most consistent of the melodic foundation, standing out only in the brighter chimes of Dulcimers Played By Peter Neff, Strings Played
. Here Brown's piano playing is really only accompanied by string harmonies, which are cut off abruptly for a moments in the song by the curious sound of someone exiting out a number of doors before returning again.
Labradford will shift itself in and out of a few labels in this release. In a nutshell, this is the serene mellows of post rock built upon a drone mentality and played via a small variety of instruments without any overwhelming lean toward one or another. Vocals are absent in this release and the occasional electronic blip, glitch, or fuzz will accentuate the space that the band has built around them, but never do they stand as much more than that. The song structures never grow into grandiose passages of self indulgence and the sense of meter is at all times
maintained if it is present at all, with but a very small fraction of live percussion contributed to the record in the forms of gentle tapping. Even the previously mentioned Dulcimer is played more consistently through the whole thing, however, E Luxo So
should not be mistaken as a slow or dull record. There is an underlying life that hangs on every echo or reverberation and breathes a pulse into every stroke of string, key or mallet.
with John Morand and Assisted by Brian Hoffa
and Johnathan Morken. Photo provided by
Leta O'Steen. Design Assistance By John Piper