Skip to main content
Loading...

Featured Post

Amazon to start its biggest Black Friday sale yet on 16 November

Amazon's Black Friday Sale 2018 is to be its biggest yet, running from 16 November to the 25th. Here's what you need to know.
Amazon is all set for its biggest Black Friday sale yet with ten days of discounts on electronics, toys, games, fashion, beauty and home products. Black Friday deals begin 16 November and end on the 25th.

Stereolab - Switched On / Refried Ectoplasm / Aluminum Tunes Music Albums Reviews


Singles and splits documented a band’s between-albums evolution during the 1990s. These compilations, remastered and reissued, reveal that process for one of the era’s most innovative groups.

In the 1990s, being an indie fan required a deep familiarity with the blank tape. Much of a band’s activity took place on singles, EPs, compilations, and other formats extraneous to the long-playing studio album. For die-hard listeners, that meant compiling miscellany on cassette and sequencing it into a form that didn’t require hours crouched over a turntable, changing records every few songs—an early form of today’s playlisting.

Chief among the groups helping fuel the decade’s sales of Maxell XLIIs and TDK SA90s were Stereolab. The UK band’s first decade played out like a game of hide-and-seek across scattered black (and yellow, pink, clear, and marbled) discs: 7"s, 10"s, flexi-discs, split singles, tour-only souvenirs, oddball one-offs. Throughout the ’90s, Stereolab averaged a new album every 15 months. But as they evolved from the jangle and crunch of lo-fi indie pop to a knottier amalgam of krautrock and easy listening, much of their development happened between albums.

Keeping up with the band could require a significant cash outlay, though they made good on their Marxist ethos by intermittently compiling all that material for the masses who didn’t have $60 for a rare Nurse With Wound collaboration in its reflective silver sleeve. To revisit those anthologies—1992’s Switched On, 1995’s Refried Ectoplasm, and 1998’s Aluminum Tunes, all newly reissued through the group’s own Duophonic UHF Disks—is to retrace the development of one of the era’s most creatively dynamic bands.

Switched On is the simplest of the three. Released in the fall of 1992 five months after Stereolab’s introductory album, Peng!, it compiles Stereolab’s first three singles from 1991—Super-Electric, Stunning Debut Album, and Super 45. The band was still a tidy quartet: drummer Joe Dilworth (of th’ Faith Healers), bassist Martin Kean (formerly of the Chills), multi-instrumentalist Tim Gane, and Laetitia Sadier singing sweetly in French and English about topics plucked from a grad student’s dog-eared textbooks. The band’s sound was fuzzier than it would soon become, brimming with stompbox abuse and two-chord rave-ups; the drums and guitars of “Brittle” and “Contact” are but a stone’s throw from shoegaze. Even then, the outlines of their sound, and the roadmap to their future, were fully realized in intricate detail.

In the first three tracks here, Stereolab leap from the thrillingly linear and hard-charging “Super-Electric” to the more wistful, Farfisa-powered “Doubt” to the shuffling study in vocal counterpoint, “Au Grand Jour’.” On the eight-and-a-half minute “Contact,” they morph from a demure shimmer to the kind of airplane-roar climax that made their early concerts so exciting and deafening. And though Sadier’s dulcet voice seems to float, her lyrics—easy to miss by ear, but impossible to forget once you’ve deciphered them—are prescient. “Is it enough to show/How the nightmare works/So the people will wake up/Is it enough?” she sings during “Doubt.” The observation feels more apropos than ever now: What is doubt if not the defining quality of the post-truth political era?

In 1993, Stereolab shifted into overdrive, releasing three major works before 1994 was up. The Groop Played “Space Age Batchelor Pad Music” is a mini-LP with a dreamy mood. Their sophomore album, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements, is heavier than its predecessor. Mars Audiac Quintet, their third, is the crown jewel of their early, motorik phase. Released 11 months after Mars, the collection Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2) captures the run-up to that peak.

Stereolab are clearly testing the proportions of their sound, balancing the rough, the smooth, and the sly. “Harmonium”—a 1992 single by the power trio of Gane, Sadier, and Dilworth—is a grinding slab of maximalist minimalism in full Suicide mode. “Lo Boob Oscillator,” a 1993 Sub Pop single by a six-piece, marries crisp 1960s pop hooks to metronomic drumming and coruscating drones. They’re sometimes refreshingly straightforward here. On “Revox,” they pummel away, channeling their live intensity through chords that shift up and down, like the gearbox of a sports car hugging mountainous curves. “Revox” reveals the outlines of an increasingly raw sound and shows signs of growing lyrical daring, too. The sweet ba-ba-ba harmonies are actually a series of French verbs: “To pine/To quiver/To die/To moan … To suffer/To sleep/To appear/To vomit.”

But Refried Ectoplasm also documents Stereolab at their experimental best. The 14-minute “Animal or Vegetable [A Wonderful Wooden Reason...],” a collaboration with British avant-garde trickster Nurse With Wound, begins with several minutes of backmasked vocals. It veers into dirge-like psychedelic stomp before ending with an explosion of haywire musique concrète—gunfire, barnyard animals, rehearsal tapes spit out by a malfunctioning machine.

The biggest shift of Stereolab’s career came after Mars Audiac Quintet, as the band fully embraced unusual time signatures, ultra-vivid production, and the record-collector winks that distinguished 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup and 1997’s Dots and Loops. This is the ground covered by 1998’s sprawling Aluminum Tunes, which collects music from 1994 until 1997. The 25-track set begins with the six-song Music for the Amorphous Body Center EP, created as the complement to an exhibition by the sculptor Charles Long. If amoebas could dance, they’d waltz to this burbling, squelching suite. “Iron Man,” an exotica-inspired and breakbeat-driven single from 1997, is the better indication of where they were headed. The wordless vocal samples and elastic pedal steel are kitschy and cartoonish, while the rolling drums suggest the extent to which the group was keeping an eye on what the era’s DJs were doing. There are two more explicit nods to DJ culture in the compilation’s two remixes.

Not everything here is essential, of course; an anthology sourced from 7" B-sides will, by definition, contain some filler. My personal C100 of Stereolab rarities would not include “One Note Samba / Surfboard,” their flute-laced collab with Herbie Mann. But Aluminum Tunes’ best songs, like the unexpectedly lovely “One Small Step,” rank among their best material, period. And “Speedy Car,” a 5/4 escapade with Afrobeat touches that cycles endlessly upward, offers teasing hints at paths not taken.

It’s in these mutations, so close to but so far from Stereolab’s album material, where it becomes clear why fans could be so obsessive about tracking down these rarities as they trickled out, one 7" at a time—and why, somewhere along the line, even the nice-price anthologies themselves became collectors’ items. With the band’s sneakily seductive protest music feeling more necessary than ever, now’s the perfect time for these reissues.


View the original article here

Comments

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Loading...

Popular posts from this blog

LG G5 Review In-Depth

Can LG take on the Galaxy S7 with a metal design, dual-cameras and an accessory slot? Here's our first LG G5 review, focusing on LG G5 design and build, LG G5 specs, LG G5 cameras and LG G5 software and apps.
Alongside the Galaxy S7, the LG G5 is one of the biggest phones (not literally) to launch in 2016 – and we're not just talking in the Android world. It's one of the heavyweights and LG will be looking to set the market alight with the G5's alternative and innovative modular design.

2019 BMW i8 Review

The 2019 BMW i8 is a head-turner for its looks, which hides its plug-in powertrain. That’s good or bad, depending on your priorities.Even among six-figure cars with two doors, the 2019 BMW i8 steals stares. That could be because of the dramatic wing doors and futuristic shape, its laser headlights at night, or the 2019 i8’s silent propulsion for up to 18 miles.
Or it may steal attention because, even after more than four years on sale, it’s a very rare sight.

Apple iPhone XR Review

If you aren't sure you are ready to leave the Home button behind and embrace Face ID, think again. We'll tell you why the iPhone XR is worth the sacrifice - especially because it's just as good (if not better than) the iPhone XS. Find out more in out full review.
Should I Buy The Apple iPhone XR?
The iPhone XR brings Face ID to the masses. We’re sure people will continue to rebel against the lack of Home button, but eventually we expect them to come round and embrace the larger screen, Portrait mode (front and back), animoji and memoji.We have no doubt that this will be a popular iPhone and it deserves to be. The only question is why would anyone buy an iPhone XS when the iPhone XR is just as powerful and has a bigger screen.

Oppo RX17 Pro Review: Hands-on

We had time with Oppo’s new RX17 Pro. It may be blue and purple but how different is it to the similar OnePlus 6T and is it worth your time?
Should I Buy The Oppo RX17 Pro?
Oppo has made a solid mid-range phone in the RX17 Pro. Build quality is premium, fast charging is industry-best fast and the display is of high quality.But the price is high at 599€ considering the OnePlus 6T with a better processor starts at £499/€529. And while functioning as it’s supposed to, ColorOS is still unrefined for the western market with far too many changes to Android to recommend over competitors.

Google Pixel Review

Not everyone wants a phone with a big screen, but most small-screen phones compromise on performance and cameras. Not so with Google’s latest flagship Android phone: Here’s our Google Pixel review.
Joining the ranks of the Pixel C and Chromebook Pixel are Google’s new Pixel phones. We’re reviewing the smaller 5in Pixel here, but you can read our separate Pixel XL review if you’re after a bigger phone.

Like Fan Page