After releasing a debut 7" single in the spring of 1993, Labradford recorded their debut album with Rob Christensen late nights at American University in Washington, DC. Prazision LP happened to be the initial release on kranky, an opener that we will always be grateful for. The sprawl of Carter Brown's organ and analog synths and Mark Nelson's faintly melodicized guitar lines had lots of precedents, but nobody on the American indie rock scene was anywhere close to Labradford's unique ambient songcraft and textural grit in late 1993. The band's first Chicago show, opening up for Archers of Loaf, was an indication of exactly where Labradford fit into the indie rock spectrum at the time. A Labradford track was included on Kevin Martin's Virgin compilation Isolationism, placing the band in a non-scene context with contemporaries like Main, Paul Schutze, Jim O'Rourke and Disco Inferno. Based in Richmond, VA the duo expanded to a trio with the addition of Bobby Donne; who had played bass in the seminal math-rock trio Breadwinner. The addition of Donne's plangent bass lines (and eventually, his use of a sampler) broadened the band's sound. A second album, A Stable Reference came out in 1995. Tours of the U.S. and Europe with bands like Stereolab and Tortoise brought the trio more notice and the opportunity to releases singles on the Merge and Duophonic label. By the time "post-rock" had coalesced into short hand for imagination-challenged music writers (let's say around 1996); Labradford were recognized as one of the early entrants in a movement that nobody really wanted to put the energy into defining.
At the time of their third album, analog synth fetishists, cocktail nation fritterers and the dabblers in drum and bass and beat science all swirled around like june bugs on a summer night. Labradford released their self-titled album and tapped into an even wider range of sonic detail and sweep. The presence of violin and eventually a string trio and hammered dulcimer on the Mi Media Naranja album showed that the trio were as tuned into chamber music and old-timey American music as they were to retro-futurism. Labradford were creating work that looked beyond the enthusiasms of the moment.
John Mulvey, New Musical Express Jan. 10 1997
Labradford began a series of shows in the U.K. called Drifting Festivals with artists who shared their interest blurring the edges of genre. Dean Roberts, Bruce Gilbert, John Martyn, Matmos, Caspar Brotzmann and other musicians from different contexts and generations played together.
Tomas Palermo, XLR8R Issue 37
The most recent Labradford album, Fixed::Context, was recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini engineering. even given the band's extensive use of sampling and digital editing, the album reverberates with the sound of three people playing together in one room. Bobby Donne added a distinctive baritone guitar and beginning with the opening track "Twenty" a new and distinctive approach emphasizing austerity asserted itself.