Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Vol. 2)
Additional personnel: Nurse With Wound.
Engineers include: Robbs, Steve Mack, The Groop.
Stereolab's REFRIED ECTOPLASM is a collection of limited-edition vinyl singles the band has been releasing on its own Duophonic Super 45s label, as well as other hard-to-find doo-dads from throughout its lifespan. It's like a career overview without all the stuff you've heard before. As such, it defines Stereolab's musical aesthetic as well as any of their other "albums": driving, electric-organ-drenched, VU-propelled space-pop whose wide-eyed beauty is balanced by its sheer simplicity and by Laetitia Sadier's minimalist vocal delivery (often in a foreign tongue).
Mostly, Stereolab's is a thick, airborne drone, but one that is all-encompassing enough to sound pretty on some occasions and difficult on others. On the one hand there are the actively odd studio sounds, and wide-ranging Beach Boys-like harmonies that bring their pop virtues to the fore ("Lo Boob Oscillator"); on the other hand, there are abrasive, rhythmic journeys with sonic pranksters Nurse With Wound, which tune into the 'lab's experimental impulses ("Animal Or Vegetable"). The best tunes, like the proletariat-minded "Exploding Head Movie," do both.
NME (12/23-30/95, p.23) - Ranked #8 on NME's `Compilations Of the Year' list for 1995.
Melody Maker (9/9/95, p.35) - Recommended - "...it's the best Stereolab album yet....`Revox'...remind[s]...you that what moves you about Stereolab ain't solely the repetition; it's the feeling of airborne movement when that chord does change, that drone does shift..."
NME (9/9/95, p.47) - 7 (out of 10) - "...rewarding, although often dry. This is music for distilling and refracting to, for plotting graphs, doing calculus and tiling laboratories to..."
Alternative Press (2/96, p.83) - "...for Stereolab fans of any stripe, there's something on this compilation that's never been heard....SWITCHED ON VOLUME TWO stands as a pretty fine introduction to one of the most fascinating groups of the last few years."
REFRIED ECTOPLASM is a compilation of rare tracks, most of which were originally released on 7-inch vinyl between July 1992 and March 1994, and two previously unreleased tracks.
Stereolab: Laetitia Sadier, Mary Hansen (vocals); Tim Gane (guitar, Farfisa organ, Moog synthesizer); Katherine Gifford, Sean O'Hagan (organ); Mick Conroy (Farfisa organ); Duncan Brown, Martin Kean (bass); Joe Dilworth, Andy Ramsey (drums).
Label: Drag City
Orig. Release: 1995
2 Lo Boob Oscillator
5 French Disko
6 Exploding Head Movie - (with Nurse With Wound)
7 Eloge D'Eros
8 Tone Burst [Country] - (previously unreleased)
9 "Animal Or Vegetable [A Wonderful Wooden Reason...]" - (with Nurse With Wound)
10 John Cage Bubblegum
11 Sadistic - (previously unreleased)
Recent Release: 09/19/1995
In Print: Yes
Format(s) Available: CD
Dots & Loops
Producers: John McEntire, Andi Toma, Stereolab.
Recorded at Idful Music Corp., Chicago, Illinois and Academy of St. Martin In The Street, Dusseldorf, Germany.
Is the sound of Stereolab's Moogs, electric keyboards, and strummed guitars starting to infiltrate mainstream pop? Or is the band itself getting continually better at its electronic bubblegum grooves? Whatever the reason, each Stereolab album is that much catchier than the one before. The music arrives sounding like it's been in your head for years. And some of it may well have been: the occasional trumpet blasts might as well have come from an old Beach Boys album.
While the Beach Boys made their mark by topping their lush pop with words of sadness and disillusionment, Stereolab graces a warm analog pulse with soft-but-icy female vocals (in French and English) that comment on stagnation, aimlessness and the pointlessness of capitalist life. "Brakhage" finds that voice repeating "We need so damn/Many things/To keep our stupid/Lives going" over what may be the happiest pop groove in history. On "The Flower Called Nowhere" Stereolab sings of "the stagnant mass" in between chipper interjections of la la las over a 6/8 pulse, while the 17-minute "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" sounds like PET SOUNDS as remixed by Tortoise.
Village Voice (2/24/98) - Ranked #29 in the Village Voice's 1997 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.
Melody Maker (12/20-27/97, pp.66-67) - Ranked #38 on Melody Maker's list of 1997's "Albums Of The Year."
NME (12/20-27/97, pp.78-79) - Ranked #26 in NME's 1997 Critics' Poll.
Rolling Stone (10/2/97, p.54) - 3.5 Stars (out of 5) - "...moving ever further away from the one-chord drone mesh of its early days....DOTS AND LOOPS fleshes out its rhythms with a range of hybridizations....Amazing stuff..."
Spin (11/97, p.144) - 8 (out of 10) - "...DOTS AND LOOPS trip up its relentless groove with finely textured tracks that seem to float in place and space....It's a less blissed-out journey, but their most audacious music."
Melody Maker (9/27/97, p.50) - "...fabulously fluid, so light and plain lovely....[Stereolab] trails its elegant hands again in the warm waters of French sixties pop, Latino jazz, and Muzak."
NME (9/20/97, p.53) - 8 (out of 10) - "...DOTS AND LOOPS...is the most coherent, consistent and downright comfortable Stereolab opus to date. It is also their most full-on pop album so far....the best Stereolab album yet."
Entertainment Weekly (9/26/97, p.78) - "...Cynics may dismiss the band's mix of smoothed-out sambas, limpid lullabies, and dreamy drones as highbrow Muzak, but you don't need a degree in musicology or semiotics to fall under the spell of these seductive melodies." - Rating: A
Stereolab includes: Laetitia Sadier (vocals); Tim Gane (guitar); Mary Hansen, Richard Harrison, Morgane Lhote, Andrew Ramsay.
Additional personnel: Rebecca McFaul, Shelley Weiss, Poppy Branders, Maureen Loughnane (strings); Paul Mertens, Dave Max Crawford, Jeb Bishop, Ross Reed (brass); Sean O'Hagan (piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Farfisa organ); Xavier "Fischfinger" Fischer (piano); John McEntire (synthesizer, percussion, vibraphone, marimba); Douglas McCombs (acoustic bass); Andi Toma (electronic percussion, sound effects); Jan St. Werner (sound effects, insect horns).
Label: Elektra Entertainment
Orig. Release: 1997
2 Miss Modular
3 Flower Called Nowhere, The
5 Prisoner Of Mars
6 Rainbo Conversation
7 Refractions In The Plastic Pulse
9 Ticker-Tape Of The Unconscious
Recent Release: 09/23/1997
Engineer: John McEntire; Andi Toma
In Print: Yes
Format(s) Available: CD, Cass
Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Producers include: Paul Tipler, Duncan Brown, Tim Gane, Mary Hansen, Morgane Lhote.
Engineers include: Paul Tipler, John McEntire, Paul Tipler.
Recorded at Blackwing Studios, London, England and Idful Music Corp., Chicago, Illinois.
Stereolab have always been fascinated with a wide range of textures, which, under their special care, come together in a droney, poppy, spacey sound all their own. In their hands, the monotony of mid-'70s Krautrock, the hi-fi effects of so-called space-age bachelor-pad music (strings, eccentric harmonies, odd studio sounds), and the simplicity of the Velvet Underground's dark pop combine into a mighty monolith that pushes popular music's borders, while making heads sway in teeny-bopperish glee.
EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP adds a bit of funk to Stereolab's system, making the monolith swing in directions only hinted at previously. "Metronomic Underground," for instance, builds a series of mysterious grooves over its eight-minute span; it's as structured as the title implies, and as smoky as the French cafes Laetitia Sadier's vocals evoke. But the discovery of the groove is only one of Stereolab's newfound pleasures. The spacing of instruments has taken on a whole new dimension (listen to how the interplay of syncopated guitars, shaker and organ constructs the melody of "Tomorrow Is Already Here"), spreading out the band's formerly vertical sound. And their association with studio savant John McEntire (of Tortoise) has elevated the technological aspects always inherent in their creations. Still, jumpy one-note sambas like the title track remain the group's forte; a telling sign that as much as EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP widens Stereolab's horizon, it doesn't lose sight of what makes them unique.
Rolling Stone (5/13/99, p.80) - Included in Rolling Stone's "Essential Recordings of the 90's."
Spin (9/99, p.142) - Ranked #46 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s."
Spin (1/97, p.59) - Ranked #17 on Spin's list of the "20 Best Albums of '96."
Village Voice (2/25/97) - Ranked #7 in the Village Voice's 1996 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.
Melody Maker (12/21-28/96, pp.66-67) - Ranked #37 on Melody Maker's list of 1996's "Albums Of The Year."
NME (12/21-28/96, pp.66-67) - Ranked #18 in NME's 1996 critics' poll.
Musician (6/96, p.86) - "...EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP is extraordinary....never before has this too-prolific combo placed so much of what they're good at in the same place at the same time..."
Melody Maker (3/16/96, p.37) - Bloody Essential - "...The new space and polyrhythmic tension that has infused Stereolab's sound is immediately apparent from the opening..."
NME (3/16/96, p.49) - 8 (out of 10) - "...it seems that this motley crew of English second-hand record dweebs, French political, er, lecturers and instrumental boffins have simply reached their peak..."
Entertainment Weekly (4/12/96, p.68) - "They may be influenced by obscure German groups, they may sing partially in French, but Stereolab's kitsch pop is enjoyable even without a foreign-language degree..." - Rating: B+
Stereolab: Duncan Brown, Tim Gane, Mary Hansen, Morgane Lhote, Andy Ramsay, Laetitia Sadier (vocals, various instruments).
Additional personnel: Sean O'Hagan (string arranger, electric piano, organ, vibraphone); Marcus Holdaway, Sally Herbert, Mandy Drummond, Meg Gates (strings); Ray Dickarty (alto saxophone); John McEntire (vibraphone, guitar, synthesizers, maracas, tambourine).
Label: Elektra Entertainment
Orig. Release: 1996
1 Metronomic Underground
2 Cybele's Reverie
4 Les Yper-Sound
5 Spark Plug
6 Olv 26
7 Noise Of Carpet, The
8 Tomorrow Is Already Here
9 Emperor Tomato Ketchup
10 Monstre Sacre
11 Motoroller Scalatron
12 Slow Fast Hazel
13 Anonymous Collective
Recent Release: 04/24/1996
In Print: Yes
Cobra & Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night.
After an ear-pricking opening ("Fuses") peppered with hints of Art Ensemble of Chicago-like percussive free jazz, it's business as usual for Stereolab. For 1997's DOTS AND LOOPS, the group took cues from Mouse on Mars and Tortoise and assembled its distinctive synth whooshes and intricate but perfectly polished pop via hard-disc. COBRA brings performance back into play, with post-production duties split between High Llamas maestro Sean O'Hagan and Chicago avant-garde poster boys Jim O'Rourke and John McEntire. Stereolab makes their job easy by providing some of its most ambitious, sophisticated, yet unfailingly poppy compositions yet.
A few more shockers in line with "Fuses" would have been welcome, but myriad small surprises and instantly addictive melodies substitute for the usual more startling changes in direction. "Italian Shoes/Continuum" stirs up Stereolab's space age Moog-music to a Euro prog-rock frenzy. The vibe-alicious "The Free Design" pays tribute to the baroque choral-pop of the lost '70s legends. On such marathon excursions as "Blue Milk" and "Caleidoscopic Gaze," Stereolab packs ideas--not to mention funky analog workouts, subtle breakbeats, and chiming guitars--into every turn. Throughout, wall-to-wall counterpoint harmonies, Sadier/Gane's classy Continental songcraft, punchy horns, and O'Rourke's slightly woozy string arrangements make for an endlessly enchanting 75 minutes.
The Wire (1/00, p.67) - Included in Wire Magazine's "50 Records Of The Year ['99]"
Spin (11/99, p.194) - 6 out of 10 - "...Favoring un-easy listening over dance attack, this 75-minute-plus epic benfits from ruthless home listener editing: connect the dots, drop the loops."
Q (11/99, p.135) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...finds them diligently composing futuristic yet highly dated test tunes for 8-track cartridge players, tackling yesterday's technology today....lovely music..."
Alternative Press (10/99, p.110) - 4 out of 5 - "...the band's jazziest album to date, with vibraphones taking a prominent role....few bands make sweetly psychadelic pop as enduring as they do."
Mojo (10/99, p.96) - "...There's a lot of music on COBRA....Some of it is flutteringly pretty, and some of it...confirms that Stereolab are inching ever closer to the sound of Camberwell cronies The High Llamas....It's all perfectly cool and groovy..."
The Wire (10/99, pp.57-8) - "...the Stereolab formula gets taken further with a syncopated makeover that goes for breezy Latin insouciance and a poised clarity of tone....cool, casual and collected to the last."
Entertainment Weekly (9/24/99, p.147) - "...cerebral free-jazz, odd time signatures, and lengthy ethereal drones. COBRA takes time to work its charm, but it's well worth the effort." - Rating: B+
Stereolab includes: Laetitia Sadier (vocals); Tim Gane (guitar).
Label: Elektra Entertainment
Orig. Release: 1999
2 People Do It All The Time
3 Free Design, The
4 Blips, Drips And Strips
5 Italian Shoes Continuum
6 Infinity Girl
7 Spiracles, The
8 Op Hop Detonation
9 Puncture In The Radax Permutation
10 Velvet Water
11 Blue Milk
12 Caleidoscopic Gaze
13 Strobo Acceleration
14 Emergency Kisses, The
15 Come And Play In The Milky Night
Recent Release: 09/21/1999
Producer: John McEntire; Jim O'Rourke
In Print: Yes