There are lots of ways for a young band to make a big noise, and one of them is by being as quiet as possible. That's the course Labradford has chosen for "E Luxo So," an album that makes Eno's "Music for Airports" sound like the first Clash album. This Richmond trio, which has been recording for six years, now composes chamber music for post-rock hipsters who find Chopin a little too strenuous.
Like Chopin's work, these six untitled pieces emphasize piano, although they also use strings, guitar, dulcimer and discreet electronics. A distant synthbeat can occasionally be heard, but none of these compositions is exactly rhythm-driven. Instead, the notes ripple and decay, sort of like tiny swells from a pebble plopped into a pond. The band says it "invites the listener to fill in the gaps of the music." Skeptics may take that as an admission that there's not much there.
Portions of Godspeed You Black Emperor's "Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada" resemble "E Luxo So," although this Montreal group favors harsher timbres than its Richmond counterpart. Beguilingly enigmatic enough to have been labeled "the last great band of the century" by Britain's trend-hungry New Musical Express, GYBE tends to gradually amplify from its pastoral passages to epic crescendos. The first of the two long pieces on "Slow Riot" follows the slow-building strategy of Scottish art-noise favorites Mogwai.
The second composition, which runs almost 18 minutes, is less linear. Unfortunately, it's dominated by the comments of an American malcontent the band apparently met while touring. The purpose of integrating such "narratives" into its music is to be "documentary," the band members have said, but these comments are hardly worth documenting, and definitely discourage repeated listenings.
Both appearing Saturday at the 9:30 club with Tone. To hear a free Sound Bite from Labradford, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8103. For a free Sound Bite from Godspeed You Black Emperor, press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)