groop grope (stereolab pt. 2)

Since I don’t want to call it an obsession, we’ll hold up at very deep interest to describe my taste for all things Stereolab.

In writing my first post about the band, I struggled to describe its sound. Since then I did some more reading and, if nothing else, I have lots of company.

On Amazon, a reviewer spoke of Emperor Tomato Ketchup’s “sweet, deceptively innocent, and mellifluous songs.”

From the same review page, another writer piled on with this description: “For starters, imagine hearing the Avant-funk of Can, the eerie keyboard textures of The Doors (and/or other 60s psychedelic bands), the baffling odd-timed rhythms of Gabriel-era Genesis, angelic and precious vocal harmonies that can smack of The Beach Boys, and while we’re at it, how about we add in sprinkles of Chamber music, Dream pop, 20th Century classical, Jazz, Alternative rock, Baroque pop and primal amounts of synthesizer ambience floating around. And last but not least – a good dosage of catchy pop music.”

(Here’s the link to the page.)

Moving on, the very interesting ultra-high frequency fan site reprints assorted reviews and interviews from the early 90s through present day.

The Boston Globe said of the band in 1996: “a band of exquisite, post-modern charms, possessed of a Zen-like buoyancy.”

A reviewer talking about Mars Audiac Quintet described the album this way: “To its characteristic gorgeous melodies and unhurried Farfisa-organ driven chug, Stereolab has added subtle horn lines, more intricate vocal harmonies and antic Casio samba rhythms.”

And Pitchfork, discussing ABC Music, said Stereolab “…just as often sounded like Faust, the hyper Parisian pop of France Gall, the loungy exotica of Martin Denny, the bloopy Moog-music of Jean-Jacques Perry…”

The point, of course, is that the band’s music invites torrents of words, though it’s peculiarly hard to nail down.

Stereolab is great to play ‘spot the influences’ with, but as noted in my first post, I think the influences are a distraction. They never were the main point.

To wit, in interviews, Tim Gane says, first, explaining the analog synths and keyboards that are so much a part of the band’s sound:

“It isn’t because of nostalgia or anything like that. We use the older effects because they’re more direct, more extreme, and they’re more like plasticine; you can shape them into loads of things.”

(Read the full interview here.)

And second, expressing some of the same feeling about instruments: “Electronics are connected with the future. It’s not because l’m particularly nostalgic for a ’50s ideal of the future, l’m not particularly a big fan of UFOs or anything, but if everybody was to make a record and their criteria for it was how music would sound in 200 years’ time, then I think that would make it a more interesting series of records than the latest Elton John or whatever.”

(Here’s the link to the full interview.)

These folks no doubt had great record collections, but the workaday life of Stereolab was apparently much more straightforward. They found sounds they like and went forward with them. Could it be as simple, and wonderful, as that?

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