Labradford Mi Media Naranja

As a composer/musician/producer, I would imagine one of the most difficult things to do is to give your ideas the space they need to develop. Many great songs have been ruined by adding one part too many, rushing on to the next thought before the previous one has been fully realised, or adding a string section when a basic guitar/bass/drums line up would have conveyed the idea with much more raw power.

Thus the idea of minimalist/ambient music — stripping the music back to its bare essentials, leaving only what is absolutely necessary. In this set up, not a note is wasted, each being designed with a specific purpose in mind. The obvious problem is when you take this too far, leaving nothing but a bland whisper of sound in a vacuum of nothingness, devoid of emotions.

It is a fine line to tread but one which Labradford do beautifully. All six of their albums to date have been consistently brilliant but it was on their fourth, Mi Media Naranja, that they came closest to perfection.

the harder you listen, the more you hear and the deeper into the music you are drawn

That this is an album where absolutely nothing is wasted is evident even from the track titles, all consisting of single letters with the exception of track 3 which has the comparatively extravagant name of ‘WR’. The band is a trio — a guitarist, a keyboardist and a bass player — with occasional string accompaniment and with a few exceptions no drums or vocals.

The construction of the pieces is beguilingly simple. A simple short melody straight out of ‘Learning to Play Piano/Guitar, Book 1’ is repeated over and over on plucked guitar or keyboard until the listener is totally absorbed in it, completely at one with it. It is at that this point that you start to notice the other noises which were always there — the occasional high pitch squeals, almost too high to hear at all, the subtle drum machine, again only noticeable when you give the music your full concentration, the rumble of thunder so far over the horizon that you can’t be sure whether it was real or just in your imagination. And the harder you listen, the more you hear and the deeper into the music you are drawn. The occasional sample of a man or a child whose words are never entirely audible add to the sense of a whole world out there which no matter how attentive you are, you will only notice the tiniest part.

The music is mesmerising and in many ways is reminiscent of meditation, the simple melody serving as a mantra, repeated endlessly to clear the mind of the trivia which normally occupies it and providing a clean slate for more important, fundamental ideas to develop. Mi Media Naranja isn’t an album which will have you tapping your feet and dancing. It is a record which, if put on in the background, will pass by completely unnoticed seeming nothing more than easylistening ‘elevator music’. But every time I put it on and listen to it intently, trying to concentrate on every note as if it were the most important ever played, come the end of the CD I can’t help but feel relaxed and contented and a little bit amazed, facinated and bewildered with the incomprable world in which we live.

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