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  • Album Reviews |


    Switched On( 1992 )
    Super-Electric / Doubt / Au Grand Jour' / The Way Will Be Opening / Brittle / Contact / Au Grand Jour / High Expectation / The Light That Will Cease To Fail / Changer

    Formed in 1990 by Lætitia Sadier ( vocals, moog, trombone, vox, tamborine, guitar, korg ) and Tim Gane ( guitar, moog, farfisa, vox organ, tambourine, bongo ). This particular release collects together Stereolab’s first three singles issued on Too Pure records. To be truthful, much of this compilation is probably inessential to all but the Stereolab completist, but it does show a sound falling into place. 'Super-Electric' is arguably the most accomplished of the songs here and combines a Velvet Underground guitar drone with a repetitive structure and the groove of Can or Neu. It's a song that’s great turned up loud - when the guitars really hit their stride such a wonderful noise is created.

    Some of the songs then were b-sides and of course aren't as perfect as later Stereolab songs or indeed later Stereolab b-sides either, for that matter. We do get the sweet ballad 'The Way Will Be Opened' which manages to be affecting, 'Brittle' is rather messy actually - more drone than melody or groove. 'Contact' is eight minutes long and rooted in the guitar sound of early Velvet Underground. Imagine 'Sister Ray' with no lyrics. Not an appealing proposistion? Well, this isn't either. 'High Expectations' is nice with some of Laetita's vocal stylings coming into place.

    In-fact, listening to this compilation is really historically interesting rather than being anything more. Still, the process of Stereolab releasing lots of limited edition singles allowed them to experiment and find their sound and style.

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    Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements 8 ( 1993 )
    Tone Burst / Our Trinitone Blast / Pack Yr Romantic Mind / I'm Going Out Of My Way / Golden Ball / Pause / Jenny Ondioline / Analogue Rock / Crest / Lock Groove Lullaby

    This is a 'new phase' album review. The title of the record sums its contents so perfectly so i'll keep this relatively brief. 'Tone Burst' is unsatisfactory. A groove is built up and worked upon. It goes on for several minutes. A brief insert of vocals - more groove. Is this an annoucement? It's not anything arriving. 'Our Trinitone Blast' is all random noise but with a great groove running underneath, lots of shouted vocals, lots of thrilling guitars. 'Pack Yr Romantic Mind' is totally gorgeous and points the way toward a Stereolab future soon to come where the guitars were much less prevailant. 'I'm Going Out Of My Way' and 'Golden Ball' repeat the sound of earlier Stereolab - lo-fi Velvet Underground guitars with an 'experimental' approach to song structure, shall we say. 'Pause' is the sound of the human voice, lyrical meaning irrelevant. It's beautiful, too.

    'Jenny Ondioline', oh sweet eighteen minute long 'Jenny Ondioline'!! It's loud, long and thrilling, but should have closed the album rather than be placed where it was. 'Analogue Rock' is a successful experiment in guitar and electronic sound with a lyric 'All good things to come, all good things to come, will come, welcome' - repeated over and over. They make a virtue of repetition. 'Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements' overall shows signs of a very singular talent, shows other signs of sheer beauty and other signs that don't seem like signs at all. Nothing seems real but you want to carry on watching them grow.

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    Readers Comments

    "'Tone Burst' is unsatisfactory." I used to think this but now hear it like this:... it sounds like a heavy steamroller on a rough concrete road and every now and again it'll run over a marble pebble and crush it to dust ..... golden ball is their best track ever and Crest makes me squeal - what a beauty - oh momma cass 10/10. interesting Dots and loops got 9.5 ... it is an absolutely fantastic LP and a cheeky boy favourite of mine. crackin'

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    Mars Audiac Quintet( 1994 )
    Three Dee Melodie / Wow And Flutter / Transona Five / Des Etoiles Electroniques / Ping Pong / Anamorphose / Three Longers Later / Nihilist Assualt Group / International Colouring Contest / The Stars Our Destination / Transporte Sans Bouger / L'Enfer Des Formes / Outer Accelerator / New Orthophony / Fiery Yellow

    For ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’, Mary Hansen was now a full-time member and adds her vocal parts throughout, Sean O Hagen helps out with additional instrumentation, and all is well. It can be said that the success commercially, however modest, of the 'French Disko' single gave Stereolab something to work with. So, the very first thing you notice about this record is how much better sounding it is. This newly discovered 'pop' Stereolab is very much to the fore with 'Wow And Flutter' which was released as a single. Laetitia is a wonder through this song, which isn't a very scientific examination I realise, but there you go. 'Transona Five' has a nice bouncy rhythm created by the bass and guitars, the moog and keyboard effects come in.... 'they are one and the same, two inevitables...' repeated vocally, which added to the rhythm creates something of a flowing, hypnotic mantra. 'Des Etoiles Electroniques' is a dreamy french pop, 'Ping Pong' just perfect pop, full stop.

    This is an album that keeps on picking up, getting better and better to the stage where 'International Colouring Contest' is often my favourite Stereolab song of them all. The vocal sends a chill all through me and the dreamy pop structure with added 'ba ba ba' harmonies and the chorus is just dreamily gorgeous. The album closer, 'Fiery Yellow' might be a Stereolab attempt at creating a Beach Boys 'Friends' style instrumental - at least, that's what it sounds like. It's a little bare ultimately, and too long. Overall though ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ is certainly an improvement over those earlier Stereolab albums. It’s also an album that stands out and has stood the test of time quite well. It still holds you in some other place when you get round to putting it on the turntable.

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    Refried Electroplasm( 1995 )
    Harmonium / Lo Boob Oscillator / Mountain / Revox / French Disko / Exploding Head Movie / Eloge D'Eros / Tone Burst Country / Animal Or Vegetable / John Cage Bubblegum / Sadistic / Farfisa / Tempter

    'Refried Electroplasm', subtitled 'Switched On Vol 2' because this is indeed the second collection rounding up stray Stereolab single sides. Yes, it's better than the first such collection, the songs here dating from immediately before and during the 'Transient Random Noise Bursts' era. Stereolab's first near hit single is here, the marvellous guitar pop that is 'French Disko'. We have 'Harmonium', all guitars, vocals and drone. 'Lo Boob Oscillator' has Laetitia singing in her native French and la-la-lo-la-ing to great effect. It's pop, it's art, it's a work of art and lots of pleasant fun!

    'Exploding Head Movie' and 'Eloge D'Eros' sound very much like b-sides and aren't upto the quality of the best work from 'Transient Random Noise Bursts'. Speaking of which, 'Tone Burst' is included here in an alternate version with a little weird country flavour. It still sounds like it's been beamed from outer-space mind you or a Sixties version of the future. One day, all bands will sound like this? If only they did, if only they did. Well, 'Animal Or Vegetable' runs to an alarming thirteen minute length and gets in enough experimentation to make 'Sister Ray' seem somehow accessible. Of course, this kind of Stereolab experimentation would later be refined with the likes of the 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup' LP.

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    Emperor Tomato Ketchup( 1996 )
    Metronomic Underground / Cyberle's Reverie / Percolator / Les Yper Sound / Spark Plug / OLV 26 / The Noise Of Carpet / Tomorrow Is Already There / Emperor Tomato Ketchup / Monstre Sacre / Motoroller Scalatron / Slow Fast Hazel / Anonymous Collective

    ‘Emperor Tomato Ketchup’ taken together with ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ is a terrific one-two punch and even managed to place Stereolab somewhere into the conciousness of British music fans in general. Well, ‘Mars Audiac Quintet’ charted at number sixteen, ‘Refried Electoplasm’ at number thirty whilst this album topped out at number twenty-seven. Good times.

    The important word here is 'metronomic'. You see, the opener and key album track ‘Metronomic Underground’ is a glorious eight minute Can/Neu! inspired groove - seven minutes, fifty five seconds of inspired repetition. This moves into 'Cyberle's Reverie', a Stereolab assault on the pop charts, of sorts.Well, in an ideal world this would have been a massive hit. The vocals and strings combine into a gloriously rich and textured sound. 'Les Yper Sound' is hard to even begin to explain. I don't know what instruments have been used - a combination of keyboards and electronics, I guess. We have such a happy repeating beat, melody lines over the top, Laetitia sounding gorgeous all over that. Happy, happy, happy!

    The improbably titled 'The Noise Of Carpet' opens the second half of this album, all guitars and quickly taken vocal melodies to creat an exhilarating mixture of sounds. It doesn't sound like a carpet at all, mind you. 'Tomorrow Is Already Here' meanwhile opens with a repeating, slow guitar figure. A repeating, slow keyboard line comes in. Bass, a slow but insistent drum pattern. An organ, and then the final arrival, the vocals. This is carefully structured music, the quality of the arrangements being something Stereolab don’t always get credit for.

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    Readers Comments

    spartacus weaselsrippedmydrums@yahoo.com
    this was my first stereolab record. it was because of this record that i started to get into more bands that are in this genre (if thats even possible). that is an incredible tast considering i had previously been on a rather large zappa rampage. my favourites are Cybele's Reverie, and Percolator. the beginning of Percolator is extremely catchy, and still find myself singing that melody all over the place. all around, this album was damn good...i just wish i knew what she was singing about

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    Dots And Loops 9 ( 1997 )
    Brakhage / Miss Modular / The Flower Called Nowhere / Diagonals / Prisoner Of Mars / Rainbo Conversation / Refractions In The Platic Pulse / Parsec / Ticker-Tape Of The Unconscious / Contronatura

    'Dots And Loops' became the third ( fourth counting 'Switched On Vol 2' ) Stereolab album to chart within the UK top thirty. They hadn’t exactly taken the easy route, though. Following the successful singles from 'Mars Audiac Quintet' and the acclaimed 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup' they put out this little set of songs, something very difficult to initially get into. ‘Dots And Loops’ is a set of sprawling songs often containing distinct different parts. There’s little here initially that seems designed to appeal to fans of ‘French Disko’ and ‘Wow And Flutter’. For example, the opening 'Brakhage' won't sound immediately dissimilar to previous Stereolab tunes but lacks any obvious single hook, rather relying on shifting melodies, lots of percussive sounds and rather understated vocals. It's the sort of song you need to listen to many times on the trot to quite get your head round.

    'Miss Modular' was the lead single, by the way. Although lacking the out and out pop thrills of a 'Wow And Flutter', ‘Miss Modular’ is still very pleasant to listen to, it sounds accomplished. You know something, Stereolab are creating something totally unique here. You can't point your finger and say 'velvet underground' or 'krautrock' or 'jazz-samba' although all of those elements have helped shape this sound. A sound that results in 'The Flower Called Nowhere' being astonishingly good. We don't get any obvious melodic hooks, nothing you can easily grab hold of. We do however get an utterly gorgeous mixture of music and vocals, - nice leads and harmonies with Piano, little surf guitar sounds and electronic percussion shifting around the vocals. None of the lyrics are intelligible, by the way. They could be French lyrics. They could equally be English lyrics. You can make out the songs title, so at least PART of the lyrics are English.

    It's all down to the sound. ‘Dots And Loops’ contains really very impressive vocal harmonies and whilst you don't generally draw meaning from Stereolab songs – ‘Dots And Loops’ comes across as some weird kind of outer-space opera from the inside silence of a black hole. Well, this is music that is hard to fathom how on earth it was created in the first place and that's always a compliment. <

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    Chris aether12@Yahoo.co.uk
    For me this is their masterpiece; more variety & innovation than previously, slick production, slight but strong forays into drum n' bass/techno (works superbly on "Refractions"); it seems to gell as a piece better than "Transient" or "Mars" and avoids the leaden groove-plodding of those records less successful tracks. "Refractions", "Miss Modular", and "Contranatura" stand out as the best cuts. The only disc after this to come close for me is "Sound-Dust".

    Mark markcox@macmail.com
    I'm inclined to agree with Chris on this one. This was the first 'Lab album I bought, and it took me a long, long time before I really ‘got’ it in its entirety. (So much so in fact that I didn't buy another of their records for two years...!) And that's the beauty of it, there's such exquisite detail throughout, so many little false starts, interweaving melodies and strange codas to lose yourself in. Highlights for me include the intro to 'Diagonals' and the quaint organ run on 'Parsec', and of course the opening one-two of 'Brakhage' and 'miss Modular', enough to chase any blues away in an idyllic Gallic Sunday breeze. In another world, this is happily sat in permanence at the top of the charts.

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    Aluminium Tunes( 1998 )
    Pop Quiz / The Extension Trip / How To Play Your Internal Organs Overnight / The Brush Descends The Length / Melochord Seventy-Five / Space Moment / Iron Man / The Long Hair Of Death / You Used To Call Me Sadness / New Orthophony / Speedy Car / Golden Atoms / Ulan Bator / One Small Step / One Note Samba / Cadriopo / Klang Tone / Get Carter / 1000 Miles An Hour / Percolations / Seeperbold / Check And Double Check / Munich Madness / Metronomic Underground [Wagon Christ Mix] 25)The Incredible He Woman

    The songs on 'Aluminium Tunes cover the years 1994 through to 1997, regarded by many fans as a peak period for the group. Or should that be groop? That reference will go over the heads of anyone who hasn't bought a Stereolab record. But, if you haven't, I want to know WHY THE HELL NOT???? When we have such swoon-some songs as 'Pop Quiz' which opens this whole box of delights? Lots of 'la la' and 'dum dum' vocal harmonies, a few strings here and there. It's called 'Pop Quiz' and that really is such an appropriate title. Pop music that’s not straightforward and will cause you to puzzle how it’s been put together. T'The Extension Trip' continues the lush sound of 'Pop Quiz' with added weird keyboard noises for good measure. The wonderfully titled 'How To Play Your Internal Organs Overnight' contains one of the most beautiful vocal sections Stereolab have ever recorded. Mary and Laetitia sing in harmony, no words - just vocal phrases. The string section pops in, little electronic noises. It's hard to explain, it demands to be listened to. It's truly a beautiful thing.

    'Melochord Seventy-Five' re-introduces a Velvet Underground guitar groove last heard done this well on 'Mars Audiac Quintet'. 'You Used To Call Me Sadness' is truly gorgeous, such melody! It'll be swimming around your brain for days on end after two listens. Trust me on that. 'Klang Tone' is more 'Mars Audiac Quintet' styled guitar groove madness. Very enjoyable it is too. 'Get Carter' and '1000 Miles An Hour' are perfunctory, 'Percolations' a very strange, almost Aphex Twin piece of noise. In fact, the second CD rather descends in quality given the high enjoyability factor of much of the first disc. Still, you do get twenty five songs, total and I for one have enjoyed many a happy hour listening to 'Aluminium Tunes'.

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    Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night 8 ( 1999 )
    Fuses / People Do It All The Time / The Free Design / Blips Drips And Strips / Italian Shoes Continuum / Infinity Girl / The Spiracles / Oh Hop Detonation / Punture In The Radah Permutation / Velvet Water / Blue Milk / Caleidoscopic Gaze / Strobo Acceleration / The Emergency Kisses / Come And Play In The Milky Night

    Lot’s of Jazz influences seep into the veins of ‘Cobra And Phases.’The opening 'Fuses' sounds like Eric Dolphy has wandered into the recording studio. Pure dissonant Dolphy gold all through the introduction. Now, Stereolab are a group famed for apparently always sounding the same. One listen to 'Dots And Loops' after listening to 'Transient Random Noise Bursts' should put that little critiscm to bed. That's just the half of it. Each Stereolab record has different influences, different elements to the sound. 'Blips Drips And Strips' sounds utterly lush in terms of performance and production. 'Italian Shoes Continuum' could be a song to play to a Stereolab novice. If they don't 'get off' on the vocal work ( nonsense syllables and harmonies ) or the faintly Brian Wilson esque feel of the rhythm and sounds - chances are they won't turn out to be big Stereolab fans.

    One of both the stranger and more beautiful songs here is 'Puncture In The Radah Permutation'. It shares the airy, dreamy feel of some of the songs from 'Dots And Loops'. The saxophones employed through 'Fuses' pop up on occasion to add to the overal sound. Minimalistic keyboards lines give way to a swirling sci-fi sound. The drums kicks in, the percussion goes off and does one. It builds and builds. 'Blue Milk' is an eleven minute long experimental piece and whilst contains several nice sections is rather trying over its full length. 'Strobo Acceleration' is a throwback to the Stereolab of 'Mars Audiac Quintet'. We get guitars! We get French lyrics over the top of those guitars! Yes, it's good! The closing 'Come And Play In The Milky Night' is also worth sticking around for.

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    Readers Comments

    Jacob Helfman dr_demento7@hotmail.com
    A delightful album. But, like most poeple, I was taken aback and didn't like this as much as their other releases. Maybe it's becuase of it's monotonous sound or the length. Despite all this, it's is a terrific album, showing Stereolab's different, more experimental, electronica lo-fi approach. The vocals are gentle and easy flowing. Some songs are catchy and have wordless melody phrases that get stuck in your head. Unique, bouncy, flowing, rythms loop around and around. Don't worry, Stereolab's not heading towards a totally different direction though. Their just advancing to a slightly lighter, noise pop style. Very worth owning, alot of noises that I bet you haven't heard before.

    td itchybugg@hotmail.com
    ok I like your reviews and love stereolab too, they make me feel the same way as you, But to give cobra phazes a 7.5 is wrong it is not a good lp. and if you give that a 7.5 and a good lp like sound dust an 8 it makes your system less credible! Hey they make like 8 great records. One bad one is not too bad!

    peter hall hunter_hall@attglobal.net
    This is the Lab's finest hour. They are more ambitious, courageous,experimental, various and beautiful here than anywhere else. They even make the ugliness of Blue Milk beautiful. An astonishing marvellous, achievement.

    Sean murphey@tecinfo.com
    Itchybug, please give this another listen. Any lab effort must bear repeated listens. You will find that 71/2 is a little low, score wise. Peter, you have hit it on the head. The true Lab fan is one who "gets it", and comes to realise one release cannot be compared with another but must stand on it's own. It's all or nothing. Cobra is all.

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    First Of The Microbe Hunters( 2000 )
    Outer Bongolia / Intervals / Barock-Plastik / Numous Et Phusis / I Can Feel The Air ( Of Another Planet ) / Household Names / Retrograde Mirror Form

    Stereolab throughout what passes for their career have often produced interesting b-sides and additional material out-side of their regular album releases. This time out we get a concept mini-album comprising songs Tim Gane had intended for b-side releases although never used. It also adds in an out-take from their 'Dots And Loops' record for good measure. The Ganes also ditch the heavily produced sound of their previous couple of records for a more playful, looser feel. Well, perhaps looser isn't the correct term as the opening nine minute long groove of 'Outer Bongolia' certainly doesn't bring to mind anything loose at all. This is back to their classic 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup' record in terms of krautrock groove.

    'Intervals' opens with soft electronic percussion and Laetitia Sadiers voice sounds up close and clear. This soft and mellow introduction switches to Beach Boys styled melodies and drum rhythms. A big smile for the middle sequence to this song, it sounds exotic in the best Stereolab style. Another section two-thirds of the way through the track has Laetitia cooing 'do de do wah', repeat to close. 'Nomus Et Phusis' is electronic exotica, French lyrics, lots of delightful noises and weird effects are integrated into an art pop song. The type of switch to a different tempo and almost different song altogether that characterised 'Dots And Loops' appears mid-way through to work in some of the vocal harmonies of Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen.

    'I Feel The Air ( Of Another Planet )' tops eight minutes and was held back from the 'Dots And Loops' record. It's of a similar quality and could have easily sat within that albums running order. There's lots of beautiful detail in the playing, no obvious melodic hook to grab you in just this wonderful sound. The instrumental track drops out a little in the middle section, the high vocal parts carry on to lead into the final section - vocals sounding like they were beamed from a French re-make of 'The Sound Of Music' two hundred years hence. Violins, Brian Wilson esque bass. A switch away from the musical type vocals into a beautiful close over electronic water effects.

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    Sound-Dust( 2001 )
    Black Ants In Sound Dust / Space Moth / Captain Easychord / Baby Lulu / Black Arts / Hallucinex / Double Rocker / Gus The Mynah Bird / Naught More Terrific Than Man / Nothing To Do With Me / Suggestion Diabolique / Les Bons Bons Raisons

    Some fans were looking for an obvious leap forwards with this record, something startling akin to the first time they heard 'French Disko' or 'Dots And Loops'. We do get an evolution of sorts, I suppose. Once 'Spacemoth' has begun, it builds in tempo with additional layers of instrumentation as it goes along. It's over seven minutes long and not very interesting for the main part, but you still keep listening. There is a big fantastic reason to keep listening. Around the five minute mark the track truly gets into gear with a fantastic shuffling rhythm, brass sections and 'do de do' vocals in the best Stereolab style. Mary Hansen’s voice is added to Laetitia’s, the rhythm gets all groovy, the percussion is added attention to detail. Everything becomes perfect, grin inducing and we have something here.

    'Captain Easychord' upon single release made for a perfect two and half minutes. Dreamy pop music with a bizarre out of place ( in the best way ) country feel in the chorus parts. The album version is twice as long and seemingly has a different song altogether stuck onto the end of the original. 'Baby Lulu' is a classic all time Stereolab song, the vocals truly are beautiful throughout and the melodies delightfully soft. 'The Black Arts' continues from the mood set by 'Baby Lulu' very well before an uncomfortable transition into a section backed by electric Piano. It flows back into the style set by the songs introduction but you do wonder why they stuck this incongruous part in the middle of an otherwise perfectly fine song. It just sounds like they've taken half each from two songs and bashed them thoughtlessly together.

    It does become clear the more straightforward songs on this record are typically the songs that work best. The added electronic elements are sometimes integrated well, other times less so. Overall ‘Sound-Dust’ feels like a transitional work on the way to something greater rather than an accomplished move into a truly new direction. There are still plenty of trademark Stereolab moments to enjoy although arriving at some sort of conclusion about this album record is pretty hard.

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    Readers Comments

    Martin Gray bustercolumbus@ukonline.co.uk
    What is most paradoxical about Stereolab as regards this album in particular is that the sheer intricacy of the production doesn't detract from the much lighter and spacier sound of the album as a whole... it's so crammed with little sonic textures and details (as befits its title in a way) that reveal themselves on subsequent listens....and yet remains such a ravishingly joyful listening experience from start to finish. By the same reasoning it's curious how an album like "Transient" which is actually very analogue-based can be so simply produced yet sound so heavy and claustrophobic as a result. Like I said - it's a beautiful paradox - which is what all the very best Stereolab music should always be!

    Sparkletron wmyers@cloud9.net
    I own all the Stereolab albums, and I don't need iTunes to remind me that Sound Dust gets the most play. I don't disagree with Adrian's critique--merely his rating vis-a-vis other Stereolab efforts. Sound Dust does indeed start off slowly with its haunted house melodies. But in doing so it creates a mood and atmosphere that sets the tone for things to come. Suggestions Diabolique, far from being "clumsy", is one of the most complex songs I've ever heard. Overall this is an album I listen to as an album, and not track by track.

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    Instant 0 In The Universe ( 2003 ) ****
    Suddenly Stars / Jaunty Monty And The Bubble Of Silence / Good Is Me / Microclimate / Mass Riff

    I miss Mary Hansen becaise of course her vocals were a vital part of the overall Stereolab sound. The live performances will be noticeably different and she'll be dearly missed. Without getting into spiritual matters, wherever she is, I hope she's smiling.

    This is an EP release prior to a new album arriving next year. I'm glad they released an EP first. My first exposure to this was to notice what was missing. I'm sorry about that, but it was purely an emotional reaction. Once i'd got over that and gotten myself into the fact Stereolab sound really cool here, everything was fine. More than fine, I mean, the first song is gorgeous, Laetitia ( i always worry i've got her name wrong! ) does backing as well as lead. The guitars come back, those Stereolab guitars not heard since, well, 'Mars Audiac Quintet' probably. Something taken away, so sadly. Something returned. It doesn't make up for the loss but the music here does sound wonderful.

    Oh, I adore the second song, 'Jaunty Monty And The Bubble Of Silence'. This is wonderful Stereolab, the kind that makes you smile and want to listen to nothing but them. 'Good Is Me' is mellow, beautiful, very beautiful. Rewards repeated listenings, it gets under your skin. Ah, the whole EP is excellent and naturally, emotional. This emotional aspect will be very clear in the minds of long-term Stereolab fans. Mary is missed, although her spirit is still somehow present within the music.

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    Margerine Eclipse( 2004 )
    Vonal Declosion / Need To Be / Suddenly Stars / Cosmic Country Noir / La Demeure / Margerine Rock / The Man With 100 Cells / Margerine Melodie / Hillbilly Motobike / Feel And Triple / Bop Scoth / Dear Marge

    Stereolab do a tribute to Mary with 'Feel And Triple'. The lyrics are certainly heart-felt, the lines 'memory of a friend' and 'goodbye mary' repeated over and over. The musical backing is prime Stereolab and the vocals prime stereolab, Laetitia singing over and over herself. Tim Gane seems to have thrown himself into his work, the album containing much lush, brilliant music. Laetitia seems a little down, struggling through emotionally. That's just the feeling I get, reading between the lines, listening to the empty spaces. This is a natural sounding record for Stereolab without the overproduction of certain albums they’ve done. It's a consistent affair and also a throwback of sorts to the sound of Stereolab circa 'Mars Audiac Quintet'.

    Let's take the closing song 'Dear Marge'. An acoustic guitar and a a sweet vocal. In comes the electronics - both happy and beautiful and reflective. The title song itself is very 'Mars Audiac Quintet and will bring a smile to many a Stereolab fan. 'The Man With 100 Cells' is both deliciously titled and also delicious – a nice decorated confectionary of a song. 'La Demeure' is almost a disco track whilst the lead cut is a tour-de-force, a brilliant Stereolab moment. At one point you know, Stereolab were my entire musical life. When they're on form, as they most definitely are throughout 'Margerine Eclipse', there is little else to touch them.

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    Readers Comments

    Jacob Helfman San Diego
    This one's probably my favorite Stereolab album. It seems to bring together all of their great sounds from all their other albums and create a marvelous piece of art. Suddenly Stars is certainly the highlight in this one, although the rest of the tracks are good as well. 10/10

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    Fab Four Suture 7 ( 2006 )
    Kyberneticka Babicka Pt1 / Interlock / Eye Of The Volcano / Plastic Mile / Get A Shot Of The Refrigerator / Visonary Road Maps / Vodiak / Whisper Pitch / Excursions Into Oh, A-oh / I Was A Sunny Rainphase / Widow Weirdo / Kyberneticka Babicka Pt2

    Stereolab need to grow. Ah, they remain one of my favourite bands and it's a nice idea putting together all the songs from recent, limited edition singles. I feel this was the plan all along, try to ensure a strong album as a result. The result? It's a good album certainly, yet I yearn for Stereolab to surprise me some 16 years down the line. I realise I may be expecting a lot from them but very few moments on this LP make me go 'wow'. Stereolab have lost their 'wow' factor? Well, 'Excusions...' contains a glorious instrumental sequence, all farisa and guitars and wonderfully executed. 'Visionary Road Maps' ventures into 'Mars Audiac Quintet' territory, 'Interlock' almost ventures back to the excellent 'Dots And Loops'. Stereolab are perhaps in a stage of consolidation following the departure of Mary Hansen although strangely for an album collected from singles and EPs, 'Fab Four Suture' sounds superbly cohesive. Of course, Stereolab are known for 'always different, always the same', yet the songs and ideas and the beating heart of this record could have come from just about any time in the groups past. I'm being fussy, but I want more than this.

    With favourite bands, many of us go the 'High Fidelity' route and insist on updating our own personal 'best of' compilations to copy to cassette ( as it used to be ) or burn to CD. I'll put a couple of tracks from this collection on there but they won't be highlights of my Stereolab 'best of' CD, they'll be there so each album can be represented. That kind of inclusion, you know? 'Whisper Pitch' for example, it delves right back into the groups past sound, it flies along with energy and has a forward moving groove. It doesn't sound like many of the tracks here do, like it's going round in ever decreasing circles. Still, three or four tunes from the LP do present better stereolab material. Of the remainder, a good sound is created yet not much of a lasting impression is left that stays with you.

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    Chemical Chords( 2008 )
    Neon Beanbag / Three Women / One Finger Symphony / Chemical Chords / The Ecstatic Static / Valley Hi! / Silver Sands / Pop Molecule [Molecular Pop 1] / Self Portrait With "Electric Brain" / Nous Vous Demandons Pardon / Cellulose Sunshine / Fractal Dream Of A Thing / Daisy Click Clack / Vortical Phonothèque

    This latest studio set from Stereolab sounds a little 'dry' to my ears. Well, it wasn't going to sound 'wet' was it? What the hell am I saying, anyway? Let me explain - the songs here sound like they were recorded in a airless cocoon. There's a lack of natural space and echo between the sounds and the notes. It's often easy to forget how long Stereolab have been around. They are now something of a middle-aged band making music for thirty-something’s like me and unknown to your average Arctic Monkeys fan. That's a shame really, isn't it?

    Sean O'Hagan of High Llamas continues his association with Stereolab by arranging the strings for this album, among other things. The strings are the only real texture these songs have. Stereolab have rarely made it easy for music critics in the first place but I imagine there's not many critics out there who would get past the obligatory three listens before dismissing 'Chemical Chords' without really paying proper attention to it. 'Chemical Chords' isn't really an album that demands attention you see and Laetitia Sadier's vocals are generally pretty quiet in the mix.

    Tim Gane apparently wrote around seventy rhythms, patterns and 'neutral' chords in a one week burst of writing. A core group of these were then fleshed out with vibes, farfisa - the usual Stereolab instrumentation. 'Chemical Chords' edges Stereolab back to pop music then and this is a relatively straightforward release for them. 'Daisy Click Clack' is sugary and has lots of fun with nonsense words yet also recalls Sixties girl-pop to an extent. 'Neon Beanbag' is almost a clichéd piece of Stereolab in both title and content although the happy rhythms and 'ba ba do we ah ba ba' backing vocals are enough to raise a smile in even the most churlish of people. 'Three Women' sounds like a song from 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup'. Not a particular one, you understand - just in general, comparing moods, feels and sounds. Sean O'Hagan's little brass cameo's are a delight. His strings at the beginning of the album's title track evoke Seventies movie or tv-music, most pleasantly so.

    'Vortical Phonotheque' closes the regular CD edition of the album with Harpsichord melodies and a rather dreamy, mid-tempo feel. 'Chemical Chords' does seem like Stereolab treading water in places, but it's also consistent in a way more sprawling and diverse Stereolab albums fail to be. Hardly their finest work but certainly a small step forwards after 'Fab Four Sutre'. A new twist next time out would be welcome, only the weird, layered metallic sounds of 'Pop Molecule' suggest a new twist as far as 'Chemical Chords' is concerned.

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    Laetitia Sadier : The Trip 8 ( 2010 )
    One Million Year Trip / Fluid Sand / Our Interests Are The Same / Natural Child / Statues Can Bend / By The Sea / Unfasten / Un Soir, Un Chien / Another Monster / Ceci Est Le Coeur / Summertime / Release, Open Your Little Earthling Hands

    This is in effect Stereolab minus co-creator Tim Gane. Welcomingly, 'The Trip' is free from the rigidity that became an albatross around the ever-decreasing circles within which latter Stereolab inhabited. 'One Million Year Trip' for instance is just wonderful - it's bendy and friendly and excitingly cool. It's enough to win back lapsed Stereolab fans, of that i'm sure. There are spaces in this music, there is a freshness that was sometimes lacking with the now on hiatus Stereolab in recent years. Sadier plays Bass, Guitar, Composer, Vocals as well as co-producing and mixing. She writes 9 of the 12 compositions and hooks up with producers Emmanuel Mario and Richard Swift. The result is a frustratingly short thirty-four minutes, only frustrating because this is the best thing she's done in years - Stereolab or no Stereolab. The ebb and flow of the opening 'One Million Year Trip' through to album centerpiece 'By The Sea' and none of Stereolab's ten minute long monster experiments. Well, some may miss those often wonderful slices of Stereolab groove, but Sadier decides to keep everything tight and clean, albeit with wonderfull beating and bendy bass lines to keep you dancing.

    Her vocals are what really shine but then again, they always do. Her lyrics are as great as ever and we don't really need Stereolab if she can maintain the quality a good nine of the twelve tracks here do. 'Release' and 'Unfasten' are each around thirty seconds long and her cover of the Gershwin classic 'Summertime' is a failed experiment in melancholy, too melancholy for its own good in this instance. 'Un Soir, Un Chien' is an absolute turn-on both in the whispering/crooned french vocals and the ultra sexy bass-lines. More slinky grooves abound throughout 'Ceci Est Le Coeur' as Laetitia claims that addictive Can-type hypnotism of Stereolab as firmly her own. The album leaves you wanting more and I can't ask more than that of her right now.

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    Not Music 7 ( 2010 )
    Everybody's Weird Except Me / Supah Jaianto / So Is Cardboard Clouds / Equivalences / Leleklato Sugar / Silver Sands (Emperor Machine mix) / Two Finger Symphony / Delugeoisie / Laserblast / Sun Demon / Aelita / Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2) / Neon Beanbag (Atlas Sound mix)

    With Stereolab now on a seemingly permanent hiatus, attention is drawn to what could be their final ever release, 'Not Music'. Pared down from 31 tracks mostly recorded at the same sessions as 'Chemical Chords', some of 'Not Music' inevitably sounds like it belongs on an EP or 7". Meanwhile, the stunning ten minute centerpiece 'Silver Sands' reinvents a track from Chemical Chords turning it into a proper, monster krautrock and disco tipping stormer of a song. 'Leleklato' true would have sounded better if Mary Hansen were still around yet proves even Stereolab outtakes can be bouncy and fun pop music. The switch during the track echoes the kind of things Stereolab were doing circa 'Dots And Loops', eg moving into an entirely different song halfway through. The playing and confidence are both highly impressive during this track. In terms of sound then we have latter-era Stereolab, none of those chiming, distorted guitars of earlier years and less of the farfisa organ, etc. We don't really have the experimentation of 'Dots And Loops' yet we do have a concise, surprisingly cohesive set of thirteen songs. Whilst we can't hope these songs will have the same impact 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup' or 'Mars Audiac Quintet' they do prove that even in their death-throes, Stereolab were still capable of putting together a special blend of their Sixties vision of the future. 'Laserblast' for instance is all steaming, vintage keyboards, people I imagine stood on staging twisting and turning their torsos in a trance. 'Laserblast' as well as having lovely vintage keyboards, synths and buzzes recaptures that special vocal blend they used to do so well. Backing vocals weave in and out of the lead vocals joyously.

    Naturally given the circumstances and background behind this record, there's not really anything to compare to 'French Disko' and the Stereolab songs that tickled the lower-reaches of the UK hit-parade. The opening 'Everybody's' Weird Except Me' comes closest, it's happy and bouncy and fun, although lacks a definitively memorable hook. The Atlas Sound remix of 'Neon Beanbag' meanwhile joins 'Silver Sands' is being one of the more interesting and fascinating pieces here. The song manages to sound ever so slightly different from Stereolab before, moving them more into an electronic arena. Stereolab have forever genuinely pleased their fan-base, but perhaps fans and band became too cosy with each other come the end of Stereolab's career? 'Not Music' demonstrates that perhaps they could have carried on with this kind of musical style forever more, provided fans were still listening. Sadly, it seems that fewer and fewer Stereolab fans actually were continuing to listen.

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    this page last updated 8/10/11

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