Stereolab StereolabNot Music
When “The Trip”, Laetitia Sadier’s solo album apart from her Stereolab and Monade band members came out, we wrote that its value would have to be judged in terms of what “Not Music” had to offer. Sadier’s fancy seemed rushed at the time, and also a bit close to the Stereolab aesthetic to be a true breakaway album to develop her own discourse. It sounded like discarded tracks from the band, songs she’d contributed that didn’t end up fitting in with the rest of the group, and which, instead of throwing them away—because they weren’t bad, it has to be said again—she had decided to record them for posterity, far from the hands of Tim Gane. So whether we understand it as a record of rejects, then, would depend on how different “Not Music” sounded from other recent albums like “Chemical Chords” (2008) or “Fab Four Suture” (2006). But anybody who has followed Stereolab (and the band has nearly twenty years of a career behind it now), knows that they aren’t too heavily inclined to breaking with the past or to revolutions, that each and every one of their albums has followed the same pattern, with few differences: nuances in the sound, the lyrics, the inspiration. Therefore, “The Trip” has consolidated itself as a hurried spin-off of Stereolab and a close relative to “Not Music”, which is another step taken down a path without accidents or changes of course.
Comments like this might lead you to believe that Stereolab is a predictable group and, therefore, so boring that it’s no longer interesting to pay attention to them. And this isn’t the case either. You must understand that Stereolab has a lot of merit—spending two decades in the trenches without any albums that are a fiasco, without an off album, is something not everyone can do. The rhythm that current consumption subjects us to, one that obligates us to be hungry for something new all the time, makes options with a slower pace, like this one, seem dated; but while other artists blaze like a lit match and burn out quickly, Stereolab is there with a bomb-proof constancy. From “Everybody’s Weird Except Me” to “Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2),” almost all of the constants that have made their work –especially in the early years– something wonderful follow: the French touch, that galactic bossa nova, repeated notes, old Moog sounds, lounge music, krautrock, and all of it at the service of pop compositions intended to make you smile, that don’t put an intellectual discourse ahead of the intention to entertain. That’s how Stereolab is and will continue to be.
Personally, I still miss the overdose of modular synthesis that were there in “Space Age Batchelor Pad Music” (1993), or the balance between tornados of circular sound and counterpoint voices in masterpieces like “Mars Audiac Quintet” (1994), “Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements” (1993) or the fundamental “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” (1996). I think that since they left Too Pure and made the jump over to a multinational with “Cobra and Phrases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night” (1999) nothing surprising has happened anymore around Stereolab, so the last decade has been like when you get a visit for the evening from an old acquaintance who hasn’t changed his habits and who’s really familiar (not to say predictable). The talent is still there, the wick is still burning, although the light doesn’t show anything new. On the other hand, “Sun Demon” has something of their old tricks in stereo, “Laserblast” recovers those easy listening moments, there are rowdy synthesisers in “Leleklato Sugar”, and a greater acoustic weight in “Supah Jaianto” or “Equivalences.” All of Stereolab’s albums are condensed in this album, as they were in the previous ones, as if it were a Russian nesting doll. But if I have to choose one thing to keep, I would choose the two remixes included in the middle, for the breath of fresh air that they offer – Emperor Machine resolves “Silver Sands” with a motorik gallop and a disco beat– and the end, with Atlas Sound undoing “Neon Beanbag” in a torrent of micro-sampling with cosmic intentions. In conclusion: I would never leave an old friend standing outside in the cold.
Tom MadsenStereolab - Everybody's Weird Except Me
Stereolab - Neon Beanbag (Atlas Sound Mix)