Labradford gradually developed their ambient rock excursions throughout the ’90s, growing from a duo to a trio and bringing more instrumentation to the mix. This is, to a certain extent, what all bands and artists must do to maintain relevance – further refine the technique, explore an influence, unlock potential through collaboration. If the process described as such seems rote and predictable, the acceptable rebuttal is that one is guided through it by the muse, rather than self-aware calculation. However, as the process develops a rhythm of its own, what previously appeared as natural begins to become inevitable. Comfort zones are sooner explored than the outside world, the spark of the new is gone, and technique, rather than revelation, is celebrated. Like peer Robert Hampson, Labradford eventually painted themselves into a corner, with Carter Brown disappearing and Mark Nelson's later Pan American project, for all of its richness of texture and conceptual rigor, paling in comparison to the earlier work.
This is not meant to be harsh. The larger point is that we can only lament something that is lost, and that, if glory doesn't fade, it at least transmutes. Pan American and later Main releases continue to be absolutely astounding, records to admire for their well-worn intelligence and commitment, but, if one listens back to the first Labradford and Main releases, or Hampson's prior work with Loop, the lost possibilities become painfully apparent: what if Hampson continued to explore the trance, rather than the mechanics, of psychedelia? To ask the question, one needs to back up to the fork. To ask the question honestly, you have to be thankful that the road you're traveling on is interesting enough to even have a fork.
To say the least, Labradford's Prazision LP stands before the fork (1993), and its accomplishment is that it hints at so many possibilities without feeling disjointed or inconsistent. So many seemingly disparate artists are currently mining this territory, and with such comparatively dismal results. Album closer "Skyward with Motion" is as stubborn as Mike Shiflet, but could Shiflet even come close to pulling off a track like "Soft Return," easily the most sublime pop song Labradford produced? Some of the City Centre Offices or Morr Music folks might attempt the shimmering Laurie Anderson-isms of "Disremembering" or the glacial atmospherics of "C. of People," but the Jarboe-era Swans acoustic stomp of "Sliding Glass"? Not a chance. The album makes both noiseniks and electronic shoegazers look foolish.
Prazision LP's reissue could not come at a better time. This is where No Fun and Type Records meet, and it's more interesting and inspired than what either has been producing of late. Singularity of purpose can be effective, but at least a passing acknowledgement of the bigger and brighter things in the world is necessary; otherwise, it's just vanity. Prazision LP sounds as if it has been places. Here, there are songs beneath the haze, substance and feeling beneath the surface. If Labradford and its members chose a path, chalk it up to inevitability. On their debut, the possibilities were endless.