Stereolab

Tagged: Music

Anglo-French band, formed by Tim Gane (1964-    ) and Lætitia Sadier (1968-    ). Stereolab's eclectic, synthetic sound comprises indie guitar, electronica, krautrock and world music, and their fascination with sf has been enduring, although in a playful rather than consistently engaged manner. An early EP was called Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (1993) and their second major label album release was Mars Audiac Quintet (1994) (although "The Stars Our Destination" on that latter release has nothing specifically to do with Alfred Bester). Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996) – the title is the English translation of the title of surrealist director Shuji Terayama's 1971 film Tomato Kecchappu Kôtei – is perhaps the group's most satisfying album, in part because it takes for granted the multilayered futurism of earlier releases (one track is called "Tomorrow is Already Here"), building on it to establish one kind of properly science-fictional sound in which pop melody and lyrical content (in French and English) stand in for the kitsch of sf Pulp, whilst complex drones, rhythms and musical structures approximate the structural fabulation. These songs are, as one track calls it, "Les Yper-Sound". The jazz-pop of Dots and Loops (1997) carried this project on, through tracks called "Prisoner of Mars", the more commercial "Parsec" or the 18-minute rhymic interlockings of "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse". The musical balance was not an easy one to maintain: Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night (1999) veers too much towards jazz, and sounds like filler; the whimsy in Sound-Dust (2001) ("Black Ants in Sound-Dust"; "Space Moth") over-sweetens the whole, and Margerine Eclipse (spelled thus, 2004) sounds tired and unoriginal. More recently, with Chemical Chords (2008) the group have recaptured something of the distinctive quality that made them distinctive, although their focus appears to be moving away from sf. [AR]

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