Stereolab is one of those groups that put the independent in independent music. They have always traveled their own path regardless of the consequences and have eschewed popularity to create the type of music that suited them.
They have gained a reputation as an alternative or post rock band. They originally relied heavily on electric keyboards to create their music but have gradually added a guitar sound to the mix until it now shares almost equal billing. The vocals at times can be repetitive, but their harmonies soften the effect. The lyrics can also be very political upon occasion.
Lead guitarist Tom Gane and vocalist Laetitia Sadier have been the constants since the band was founded in 1990. Drummer Andy Russell came on board in 1993. The other two current members are bassist Simon Johns and keyboardist Joe Watson. The band underwent a crisis during 2002 when longtime keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Mary Hansen was struck and killed while riding her bicycle. The group grieved, reformed, adjusted their sound, and moved on.
They released Chemical Chords during 2008, and a year later announced they would be taking a hiatus from touring and recording. The 2007-2008 sessions must have been productive and varied as their newest album, Not Music, was recorded at that time. Eleven new tracks are seeing the light of day for the first time.
Despite being recorded at the same time, Not Music is different and more varied than its predecessor. This is very apparent on “Silver Sands” and “Neon Beanbag,” which re-appear on their new album in a re-mixed format and give them new textures and style.
They have evolved far from their original raw and simplistic sound that dominated their early work. While their music remains tight and focused, there are now more drums, some brass, and even strings added to the arrangements. The music is fresh as Stereolab continues to reinvent themselves.
Stereolab has maintained a remarkable consistency during their two decade career. If you are a fan of the type of music they present, it’s doubtful you have ever been disappointed.
They have created another interesting album and no doubt their fan base will embrace it. The sound just bends with each listening and is both soothing and challenging at the same time. The music is catchy and includes elements of jazz, soul, pop, and psychdelica.
They have never catered to the mainstream and Not Music fits the mold of their past efforts. It is an example of them remaining true to themselves which in the final analysis is what Stereolab is all about.