Stereolab were a French/English rock groop who played what might best be described as either "avant-garde M.O.R." or "space age bachelor pad music". They formed in 1990 from the ashes of the politically astute Jangle Pop band McCarthy and were among the first wave of Post-Rock musicians, mixing Krautrock and "motorik" rhythms, pointillist fuzzed-out guitar melodies, vintage synthesizers, and lounge-pop influences. Said lounge-pop grew in influence over the years until, by 1997's Dots and Loops, they were basically playing pop music—albeit, pop music from an alternate universe where Raygun Gothic never went out of fashion, where Burt Bacharach and The Free Design are revered as musical gods, and where 11 minutes is a perfectly normal song length.Tim Gane (guitar and keys) and Lætitia Sadier (lead vocals, guitar, and keys) were the only consistent members of the groop. Mary Hansen (harmony vocals, guitar, and keys), who joined in 1992 and died in 2002, and Andy Ramsay (drums), who joined in 1993, were also key personnel during their tenure.They went on an indefinite hiatus in 2009.
Albums and Compilations
For a comprehensive discography, see their website or the other wiki.
- Peng! (1992)
- Switched On Stereolab (1992) Collection of their first 3 EP's.
- The Groop Played Space Age Batchelor Pad Music (1993)
- Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements (1993)
- Mars Audiac Quintet (1994)
- Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2 (1995) Collection of singles and rarities.
- Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)
- Dots and Loops (1997)
- Aluminum Tunes: Switched On, Vol. 3 (1998) Collection of EP tracks, singles, and rarities.
- Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night (1999)
- Sound-Dust (2001)
- ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions (2002) Collection of live recordings.
- Margerine Eclipse (2004)
- Oscillons from the Anti-Sun (2005) Collection of EP tracks and previously-unreleased material.
- Fab Four Suture (2006) Collection of singles.
- Serene Velocity: A Stereolab Anthology (2006) Greatest Hits Album, focusing on the material they released on the Elektra label.
- Chemical Chords (2008)
- Not Music (2010)
The groop provides examples of:
- Ac CENT Uponthe Wrong Syl LA Ble: Very often. Mostly comes from Lætitia Sadier not being a native English speaker.
- After the End: "One Small Step".
- Author Tract: The majority of their lyrics push a Marxist / Situationist worldview. Some are more subtle about it than others. It doesn't help that the two main members of the band from time to time give conflicting statements about this, as reported by The Other Wiki:Lætitia Sadier: "Basically I want to change the world. I want to make people think about how they live every day, shake them a bit."Tim Gane: "[N]one of us are Marxists ... I've never even read Marx."
- Book Ends: Fab Four Suture opens with "Kyberneticka Babicka Pt 1." and ends with "Kyberneticka Babicka Pt 2." Both songs are trancelike variations on the same melody.
- Bread and Circuses: A few tracks from Dots and Loops seem to be about Spectacle, the Marxist concept that escapist media merely exist to keep the masses from questioning the status quo.This is the future, of an illusion,
aggressive culture, of despotism.
Living fantasy, of an immortal;
the reality, of an animal.— "Contronatura"
- They also have a song actually called "Pain et spectacles".
- Concept Album: Chemical Chords and Not Music are conceptually linked, but it's a musical concept rather than a lyrical one. Gane and Sadier generated chord sequences at random, then built songs off of them. They took the catchier songs from these sessions and released them as Chemical Chords. Then they took the weirder songs (plus a few remixes) and released those as Not Music.
- Epic Rocking: With the exception of Chemical Chords, every album has at least one track longer than 6 minutes. The 18-minute "Jenny Ondioline" and the 17-minute "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" stand out.
- Everything Sounds Sexier in French: The band has a lot of songs featuring French, including many that are entirely in the language.
- Fish-Eye Lens: The cover art of Mars Audiac Quintet is a fish-eye photo of a synthesizer.
- Gratuitous Panning: Used deliberately, and to unusual effect.
- In "Analogue Rock", from Transient Random Noise Bursts, the organ is panned hard to the left channel, and the guitars, drums, and most vocals are panned hard to the right. They abruptly swap places, briefly, during the second verse.
- The EP Instant 0 in the Universe and the album Margarine Eclipse are both mixed in "dual mono", meaning every instrument is panned hard to one side or the other. Muting either channel results in the songs sounding radically different.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In the early days, they had a fondness for naming songs after electronic and other keyboard instruments: "Farfisa", "Harmonium", "Jenny Ondioline", "Narco Martenot" and so on.
- Inherited Illiteracy Title: The Groop Played Space Age Batchelor Pad Music. (Oddly enough, "Bachelor" was only misspelled on the front cover—the album spine and back cover spells it correctly.) Which also featured the song "The Groop Played Chord X" and inspired future album liner notes (and many a reviewer) to refer to the band as "the groop".
- Long Title: They have a few, including the album titles The Groop Played Space Age Batchelor Pad Music, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, and Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Ping-Pong", an upbeat ditty about a cycle of global economic depression, war, and all-too-brief economic recovery.
- New Sound Album: Despite their reputation for never varying their sound, they did actually pull this a couple of times:
- Mars Audiac Quintet was where their interest in lounge and exotica really started to come into play in a big way.
- Dots and Loops used drum'n'bass and jazz stylings.
- Non-Appearing Title: The vast majority of their songs.
- Nonindicative Name:
- "Stunning Debut Album". Neither a debut nor an album.note
- Not Music has, in fact, music.
- Retraux: Their music aims for the audio equivalent of Raygun Gothic.
- Their album Mars Audiac Quintet is basically the Neu! sound with variations.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: On the albums without Mary Hansen, Lætitia Sadier recorded multiple vocal tracks and harmonized with herself.
- Self-Plagiarism: "Dear Marge" rather blatantly reuses the disco groove from "Mass Riff", released just one year prior.
- Song Style Shift:
- "Jenny Ondioline" is mostly a shoegaze/krautrock fusion—then it goes "out of phase" and turns into noise pop, before turning back into krautrock for the ending.
- "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" starts off as a slow jazz/pop/samba thing; then turns into space rock with strings; then turns into something that sounds like trip-hop; then into a glitchy electronic tune; and finally back into space rock with strings for the ending.
- "Contronatura" starts off slow but tense, then fades to an ambient electronic interlude, then ends as a driving krautrock tune.
- "Space Moth" starts off slow and sinister, then changes to a faster beat for the verses, and then transitions to an upbeat ending with triumphant saxophones.
- "Captain Easychord" starts off bright, trading off between brass arrangements and pedal steel guitar—then the second half turns into moody synthpop.
- "Mass Riff" starts off as poppy krautrock, then switches on a dime into a disco groove. Similarly, "Dear Marge" begins as elegiac synth-rock, then turns into a lullaby, then crossfades into a slight variation on the disco portion of "Mass Riff".
- Vocal Tag Team: From '92 to '02, Lætitia Sadier and Mary Hansen's sing-song harmonies were one of the defining features of the Stereolab sound.