For Waiting, for Chasing (Kranky)
Since so many '90s indie bands are busy launching reunions these days, can it be Labradford revival time now? The Richmond, Va., trio never enjoyed the popularity of Superchunk or Built to Spill, but the influence of its austere, ambient sound has vastly outweighed that of most of its contemporaries; exploring the roots of today's drone-pop and gentle instrumental psych will almost inevitably fetch you up on the collective doorstep of Mark Nelson, Robert Donne, and Carter Brown. Yet the closest thing we have to new Labradford music is a reissue of the most recent album from Nelson's solo project Pan American, originally released in a teeny run on obscure Austrian label Mosz back in 2006.
For Waiting, for Chasing opener "Love Song" is almost a primer in the essential attacks of the quieter end of post-post-rock: a snatch of what sounds like a trumpet melody is echoed and layered back over itself as a glitchy rhythm cycles discretely underneath. Midway through the track's six-plus minutes, wisps of static replace the pulse before gentle bell tones ride a slow wave of susurrant drones and field-recording bites to a barely-there close. The sheer variety of sounds here provides one of the album's more pleasant surprises, from the little bits of what sounds like steel-pan percussion burbling up through "Dr. Christian" to the woofer-popping bass detonations of the brief, airy "Still Swimming," the latter a sound no earbud or desktop speaker will ever do justice. Nelson manages to integrate and work through these manifold raw materials in a way that avoids most of the ever-present deep-and-mysterious clichés. A plangent piano line on beatific closer "Amulls" may veer slightly toward New Age (or at least Harold Budd) territory for a minute, but "The Penguin Speaks" is a minor marvel of shifting feedback tones and reverberant gong sounds.
All of which is rather more abstract than the more pop-song-structured pieces of Labradford, but barring a tour featuring the ever-trendy full-album live performance—probably the seminal Prazision, though the space-flight concept album A Stable Reference would be welcome—more music from Nelson more often is a must.