Today's Artists are combining an inclination for melodic '60s pop with an art rock aesthetic borrowed from Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu!, they were one of the most influential alternative bands of the '90s. Led by Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, the ensemble either legitimized forms of music that were on the fringe of rock, or brought attention to strands of pop music -- bossa nova, lounge-pop, movie soundtracks -- that were traditionally banished from the rock lineage. The group's trademark sound -- a droning, hypnotic rhythm track overlaid with melodic, mesmerizing singsong vocals, often sung in French and often promoting revolutionary, Marxist politics -- was deceptively simple, providing the basis for a wide array of stylistic experiments over the course of their prolific career. ........N'Joy
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In 1985, Tim Gane formed McCarthy, a band from Essex, England known for their left-wing politics. Gane met the French-born Lætitia Sadier at a McCarthy concert in Paris and the two quickly fell in love. The musically-inclined Sadier was disillusioned with the rock scene in France and soon moved to London to be with Gane and to pursue her career. After three albums, McCarthy broke up in 1990 and Gane immediately formed Stereolab with Sadier (who had also contributed vocals to McCarthy's final album) and ex-Chills bassist Martin Kean. The group's name was taken from a division of Vanguard Records demonstrating hi-fi effects.Gane and Sadier, along with future Stereolab manager Martin Pike, created a record label called Duophonic Super 45s—which, along with later offshoot Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks, would be commonly known as "Duophonic
The band originally comprised songwriting team Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Lætitia Sadier (vocals/keyboards/guitar), both of whom remained at the helm across many lineup changes. Other long-time members include Mary Hansen (backing vocals/keyboards/guitar), who played with the group from 1992 until her accidental death in 2002, and Andy Ramsay (drums), who joined in 1993, and who is still in the official line-up.
In 1992 Stereolab's first full-length album, Peng!, and first compilation, Switched On, were released on independent label Too Pure. Around this time, the lineup coalesced around Gane and Sadier plus vocalist Mary Hansen, drummer Andy Ramsay, bassist Duncan Brown, keyboardist Katharine Gifford, and guitarist Sean O'Hagan of the 1980s famed Microdisney duo. Hansen, an Australian, had been in touch with Gane since his McCarthy days. After joining, she and Sadier developed a style of vocal counterpoint that distinguished Stereolab's sound until Hansen's death ten years later in 2002.
Beginning with their 1993 EP Space Age Batchelor Pad Music, the band began to incorporate easy-listening elements into their sound. This release raised Stereolab's profile and landed them a major-label American record deal with Elektra Records. Their next album, 1993's Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, was their first American release under Elektra, and became an underground hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. On 8 January 1994, Stereolab achieved their first chart entry when their 1993 EP Jenny Ondioline entered at #75 on the UK Singles Chart.
With their 1994 full-length, Mars Audiac Quintet, Stereolab focused more on pop and less on rock, the album makes heavy use of vintage electronic instruments, and also contains the single "Ping Pong", which gained press coverage for its allegedly explicitly Marxist lyrics. After releasing a 1995 collection of singles and B-sides called Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2. Stereolab's 1996 album, Emperor Tomato Ketchup, was a critical success and was played heavily on college radio. A record that "captivated alternative rock", it represented Stereolab's "high-water mark". Krautrock techniques were still present, but the band stirred the pot with hip-hop sounds and complex instrumental arrangements. John McEntire (Tortoise) assisted with production and also played on Emperor Tomato Ketchup, while Katharine Gifford was replaced by Morgane Lhote before its recording, and bassist Duncan Brown by Richard Harrison afterward.
Dots and Loops was released in 1997, and was Stereolab's first album to enter the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at #111. Stereolab transformed the harder Velvet Underground-like riffs of previous releases into "softer sounds and noisy playfulness". Contributors to the album once again included John McEntire, along with Sean O'Hagan of The High Llamas and Jan St. Werner of German electropop duo Mouse on Mars. A Nurse With Wound collaboration, Simple Headphone Mind, appeared in 1997, and the third release in the "Switched On" series, Aluminum Tunes, followed in 1998.
The band then took a break from traveling while Gane and Sadier had a child. In 1999, Stereolab's next album appeared, titled Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night. Co-produced by McEntire and American producer Jim O'Rourke, the album earned mixed reviews for its lighter sound, and peaked at #154 on the Billboard 200. The full-length Sound-Dust followed in 2001, and rose to #178 on the Billboard 200. Again featuring producers McEntire and O'Rourke, it was more warmly received than the previous album with the emphasis less on unfocused experimentation and more on melody.
In 2002, Stereolab began to plan their next album, and started building a studio north of Bordeaux, France. In October 2002, the band released ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions; a compilation of BBC Radio 1 sessions. The year also saw Gane and Sadier end their romantic relationship. On 9 December 2002, longstanding band member Mary Hansen was killed when struck by a truck while riding her bicycle. Born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, Hansen earned the most attention for her vocal work with Stereolab, although she also played the guitar and keyboards. For the next few months, Stereolab lay dormant as the members grieved. They eventually decided to continue; as Sadier explained in a 2004 interview: "Losing Mary is still incredibly painful ... But it's also an opportunity to transform and move on. It's a new version. We've always had new versions, people coming in and out. That's life."
The full-length album Margerine Eclipse followed in 2004 to generally positive reviews, and peaked at #174 on the US Billboard 200. The track "Feel and Triple" was written in tribute to Hansen; according to Sadier "I was reflecting on my years with her ... reflecting on how we sometimes found it hard to express the love we had for one another. It was Stereolab's last record on their American label Elektra Records, which closed down in 2004. The album was followed by Oscillons from the Anti-Sun; a 2005 three-CD and one-DVD retrospective of the group's rarer material. In 2005 and 2006, Stereolab released six limited-edition singles which were collected in Fab Four Suture, and contained material which Mark Jenkins thought continued the brisker sound of the band's post-Hansen work.
Serene Velocity, a "best-of" compilation focusing on the band's Elektra years, was released in late 2006. By June 2007, Stereolab's lineup comprised Tim Gane, Lætitia Sadier, Andy Ramsay, Simon Johns, Dominic Jeffrey, Joseph Watson, and Joseph Walters. The band had finished the production of their next album, entitled Chemical Chords, which was released in August 2008 on the 4AD label. The release of the album was followed by an autumn tour of Europe and the United States. In April 2009, manager Martin Pike announced a pause in the band's career together for the time being. After 19 years, he stated they felt it was time to take a rest and move on to new projects.
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Stereolab's music is so consistent, and so consistently pretty, that it has become nearly criticism-proof; the band do what they do so completely that it's almost a matter of accepting or rejecting their music whole instead of analyzing it. But while Stereolab's mix of '50s and '60s lounge, vintage electronic music, and Krautrock may have crossed over into easy listening indie pop a few albums ago, they still can't be dismissed easily. Margerine Eclipse, the band's tenth full-length, can sound a bit like a collage of pieces from their nine other albums, but the overall effect is more retrospective than repetitive. It's arguably the most direct work Stereolab have done since Emperor Tomato Ketchup (and at just under 54 minutes, it's one of the shortest of their later albums) and it continues Sound-Dust's trend of gathering the sounds the band explored on their previous work and tweaking them slightly. All of this is to say that Margerine Eclipse is a strong album, even if the nagging feeling that the band aimed a little low with their artistic goals takes a small amount of pleasure out of listening to it. The album trades in the bright yet somehow bittersweet pop at which the group have always excelled, albeit in a more streamlined form than it's taken over the course of their past few albums. The busy beats, whimsical noises, unconventional melodies, and, of course, lovely harmonies that define Stereolab are all present and accounted for, and they're all very pretty, even if many of them are pretty similar to each other. But Margerine Eclipse's best songs are good enough that they resemble a greatest-hits collection from an alternate universe: "...Sudden Stars" is as coolly lovely as it was on the Instant 0 in the Universe EP, with its delicate, measured synth and vocal lines rising and falling in graceful arcs of sound. "Vonal Déclosion"'s twangy guitars and lush strings nod to Sean O'Hagan's involvement, and the layers of Laetitia Sadier's vocals are seamless, but on songs like this, Mary Hansen's voice is missed more than ever ("Feel and Triple" is a sweet tribute to her). "Cosmic Country Noir" is another of Margerine Eclipse's standout tracks, and indeed one of the best Stereolab songs in a long time; on paper, its percolating percussion, chiming synths and guitars, and simple lyrics about the pleasures of the country might not seem all that special, but in practice it's exceptionally beautiful. Perhaps Margerine Eclipse's greatest accomplishment is that it isn't nearly as overcooked as some of Stereolab's other recent work. None of the songs bring the album to a halt; the closest Margerine Eclipse comes to the band's previous noodly excursions is "La Demeure," a fascinating but somewhat formless track mixing Raymond Scott-like synth sparkles with brass and unpredictable rhythmic and melodic shifts. Just as importantly, the fizzy "Margerine Rock" and "Hillbilly Motorbike," which sounds like the theme to a very stylish game show, restore some of the effortless fun that informed all of Stereolab's work before Dots and Loops. Likewise, "Bop Scotch"'s mix of surf rock and synths -- as well as the sassiest vocals from Sadier in a long while -- suggests that there's still plenty of life in Stereolab. O'Hagan's presence on the album is used judiciously, adding some warmth to the production but not indulging his own noodly tendencies either. Margerine Eclipse's final track, "Dear Marge," is heavily influenced by O'Hagan's work, both with the High Llamas and his previous collaborations with Stereolab. Its languid guitars and silky vocals threaten to slide off into a blissful haze, but then the band reprises the surprisingly convincing disco interlude they introduced on Instant 0 in the Universe's "Mass Riff." It would've been nice to hear that part of the song developed into a full-fledged track, but it still makes the song one of the freshest on the album. Margerine Eclipse can't really be called a return to form since Stereolab didn't really deviate from the form to begin with, but it still offers a reinvigorated sound that rewards the patience of fans who have stuck with the band this long.
Stereolab - Margerine Eclipse (flac 351mb)
01 Vonal Declosion 3:34
02 Need To Be 4:50
03 "...Sudden Stars" 4:41
04 Cosmic Country Noir 4:47
05 La Demeure 4:36
06 Margerine Rock 2:56
07 The Man With 100 Cells 3:47
08 Margerine Melodie 6:19
09 Hillbilly Motobike 2:23
10 Feel And Triple 4:53
11 Bop Scotch 3:59
12 Dear Marge 6:56
Stereolab - Margerine Eclipse (ogg 144mb)
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An album and a singles collection at the same time, Fab Four Suture stitches together four limited-edition EPs Stereolab released in the fall of 2005 and spring of 2006. Over the years, the group has made a reputation for having EPs and singles -- and therefore, singles collections -- that are just as good, if not better, than their albums, as comps like Switched On and Aluminum Tunes attest. Stereolab has also always been very democratic about making sure fans can get their hands on nearly all of their more obscure releases in some form or another; while Fab Four Suture is a little different than their other collections in that it was designed to form an album upon the completion of the EP series, in terms of its quality, it's on par with the band's most enjoyable comps. By combining the looser, more experimental feel of their EPs with the album format, Fab Four Suture ends up being more organic-feeling than Stereolab's previous album, the lovely but occasionally distant Margerine Eclipse. Indeed, the best moments here are more immediate than anything the band has done in a long time. "Interlock" boasts funky brass and basslines that are echoed by "Excursions into 'Oh, A-Oh,'" a driving motorik with fiery guitars that recalls the glory of Transient Random Noise Bursts with Announcements. "Plastic Mile" and "Eye of the Volcano" are examples of their sparkling, delicately dramatic pop at its finest, while "Visionary Road Maps" is lovely and mysterious, changing gears two-thirds of the way through from a insistent yet somehow bittersweet groove to a slower, slightly spooky coda. The more experimental and downright playful moods of Stereolab are also represented, respectively, by "Widow Weirdo," a quick-shifting track that has an odd, almost ugly little guitar lick as its only constant, and the fizzy, revved-up "Vodiak." After hearing Fab Four Suture in its album form, the EPs tend to feel like puzzle pieces
without any instructions; on their own EP, the two parts of "Kybernetica Babicka" felt slight and disappointing, but they work well as the album's opening and closing themes. Even more than Margerine Eclipse, Fab Four Suture sounds like Stereolab has adapted -- if not fully healed -- from the loss of Mary Hansen, and it's fitting that the group's first full-length album for Too Pure in over a decade finds them consolidating their strengths rather than completely reinventing their sound.
Stereolab - Fab Four Suture (flac 351mb)
01 Kyberneticka Babicka Pt 1.4:31
02 Interlock 4:10
03 Eye Of The Volcano 4:16
04 Plastic Mile 5:11
05 "Get A Shot Of The Refrigerator" 4:23
06 Visionary Road Maps 3:35
07 Vodiak 3:19
08 Whisper Pitch 3:55
09 Excursions Into "Oh, A-Oh" 5:27
10 I Was A Sunny Rainphase 3:27
11 Widow Weirdo 4:30
12 Kyberneticka Babicka Pt 2. 4:53
Stereolab - Fab Four Suture (ogg 128mb)
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At times, Stereolab's music seems so unchanging that it feels more like it was generated by a laser-guided, lounge pop-meets-Krautrock machine than an actual "groop," but the small tweaks they make to their master plan on each album end up making a big impact. On Chemical Chords, Stereolab's 4AD debut, they take a much more pop-focused approach than their immediately previous work -- which is saying something, since neither Fab Four Suture nor Margerine Eclipse were among their more experimental moments in the first place. Actually, the shortness and directness of these songs could be seen as a bigger experiment for the band than their frequent lockgrooves and hypnotic passages; with those trimmed, Chemical Chords presents a version of Stereolab's sound that is just as vivid as their earlier output, but fizzing with immediacy and urgency. "Neon Beanbag" jumps in hooks first, opening the album with a surprisingly swift rhythm and Laetitia Sadier's more familiar, bopping backing vocals. "One Finger Symphony"'s animated brass, guitars, and percussion suggest gears rotating and levers lifting and falling in playful but somewhat sinister fashion; "Daisy Click Clack" swishes in on brisk drums and a quaint melody that could be borrowed from a piano rag. Despite its name, Chemical Chords actually features some of Stereolab's most organic-sounding music in some time, downplaying their arsenal of analog synths in favor of live instrumentation -- the burbling synths on "Self Portrait with Electric Brain" support the song's snazzy brass and strings rather than dominating them. Likewise, Stereolab's version of "going pop" means looking beyond what "pop" means in the moment. A strong '60s feel permeates much of the album, but the way the band reconfigures these sounds prevents it from sounding archaic. "Three Women"'s rock-solid bass and tambourine shout out to Motown's heyday, but its buzzing organs and bongos feel like they were channeled from a long-lost exotic novelty album. "Cellulose Sunshine"'s gorgeous lysergic chamber pop could be a throwback, if it weren't so modishly sleek, and "Pop Molecule"'s massive synths and big, backward drums offer a futuristic take on acid rock. The band also revisits its own pop heyday on "Valley Hi!" and "Nous Vous Demandons Pardons," boasting the clever counterpoint and fuzzy Moogs of the Mars Audiac Quintet era. Chemical Chords manages to be even more concisely charming than that album, sacrificing little of Stereolab's distinctive sound for its immediacy.
Stereolab - Chemical Chords (flac333mb)
01 Neon Beanbag 3:49
02 Three Women 3:46
03 One Finger Symphony 2:06
04 Chemical Chords 5:13
05 The Ecstatic Static 4:44
06 Valley Hi! 2:15
07 Silver Sands 3:08
08 Pop Molecule 2:15
09 Self Portrait With Electric Brain 3:17
10 Nous Vous Demandons Pardon 4:52
11 Cellulose Sunshine 2:36
12 Fractal Dream Of A Thing 3:37
13 Daisy Click Clack 3:29
14 Vortical Phonotheque 3:07
Stereolab - Chemical Chords (ogg 116mb)
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Though Not Music was released in 2010, it was recorded at the same time as 2008’s Chemical Chords, after touring in support of which Stereolab went on hiatus. Despite its semi-archival status, the album sounds fresh, and distinct from Chemical Chords. It shares the streamlined feel of that album, but many of these songs don’t fit that album’s distillation of lounge, Motown, and French pop elements -- and those that do, such as the brisk, brassy “Supah Jaianto” and “Everybody’s Weird Except Me,” sound like warped reflections of them. Instead, Not Music charts the more adventurous turns the band’s sessions took, providing the more experimental yang to Chemical Chords' bubbly pop yin. These songs take a more cerebral, yet still playful, approach that starts with song titles such as “Delugeoisie” and trickles down to clever arrangements. There are moments that evoke Stereolab's quintessential sounds; “Equivalences” rides a descending keyboard motif that the group’s fans will recognize immediately, while the dreamy waltz “Aelita” and “Lelekato Sugar”'s mix of fuzz bass, marimba, and Laetitia Sadier's sweetly whispered philosophical nothings evoke the Mars Audiac Quintet/Emperor Tomato Ketchup era. Even more intriguing are songs like
"Laserblast,” which mixes Raymond Scott-esque percolating percussion with new wave angles and knotty chords, and “Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2),” a heavy grind that features a pungent sax solo the likes of which hasn’t been heard since Peter Gunn’s heyday. However, Not Music's most exciting moment has to be “Silver Sands" [Emperor Machine Mix], a ten-minute marathon that moves from swift motorik to disco to downtempo interludes, all the while making the most of Sadier's velvety alto. It’s almost unrecognizable from the Chemical Chords track and should scratch the itch of fans longing for a latter-day “Jenny Ondioline.” Atlas Sound's remix of “Neon Beanbag” follows suit, as Bradford Cox returns the favor of Sadier's Logos appearance with a breathy, droning rework of the track that drifts away just as hazily as it began. Not Music is all over the place in the best possible way, and fans who love Stereolab's gracefully intellectual side will especially appreciate it. Taken with Chemical Chords, it’s a testament to just how much ground the band could cover while remaining purely Stereolab.
Stereolab - Not Music (flac 364mb)
01 Everybody's Weird Except Me 3:34
02 Supah Jaianto 5:07
03 So Is Cardboard Clouds 3:49
04 Equivalences 2:23
05 Leleklato Sugar 3:04
06 Silver Sands [Emperor Machine Mix]10:20
07 Two Finger Symphony 3:47
08 Delugeoisie 3:41
09 Laserblast 3:25
10 Sun Demon 3:18
11 Aelita 3:49
12 Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2) 2:03
13 Neon Beanbag [Atlas Sound Mix] 7:57
Stereolab - Not Music (ogg 133mb)
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