In my review of last year’s Margerine Eclipse, I predicted the future. Stereolab have, indeed, ended their lengthy term on Elektra Records, returning to their indie home at Too Pure. And to kick off their return to their original home, they have released three seven-inch singles, simultaneously. The three singles could be seen as separate releases, as they are, technically, each self-contained. But they could also be looked upon as one collected work, separated in threes, a la Public Image Limited’s Metal Box.
The first of the three singles, “Kyberneticka Babicka (parts 1 and 2)” is essentially one long track separated in two. A lengthy instrumental with no vocal tracks other than some looped “aahs” and “ba-ba-bas,” it’s a fun and joyous pair of tunes, albeit one that isn’t necessarily an essential to the Stereolab canon. It is, however, a pretty, well-layered series, with melodic joys along the lines of one of the Pet Sounds instrumentals.
Single number two, “Plastic Mile/I Was a Sunny Rainphase,” works more along the lines of the ‘lab’s pop songs, featuring Laetitia Sadier’s vocals and a less repetitive and loop-heavy theme. “Plastic Mile” begins with minor key melodies and a more melancholy feel, before returning to a familiar, orchestral space-age bachelor pad tone. It’s one of the band’s most surprisingly lovely and melodically interesting tracks in quite some time. It’s only a shame that Oscillons from the Anti-Sun had already been released earlier this year, as this, as well as its five accompanying tracks, could have been included as well. The B-side, meanwhile, falls more in line with Broadcast’s psychedelic weirdness, utilizing a hazy and tripped-out electronica-meets-Pink Floyd sound. This may even upstage the A-side for sheer originality, though halfway through, it does transform into the band’s traditionally lazy lounge pop. However, this works merely as a transition between verses, as it quickly falls away in favor of more psych-pop goodies.
The third of the singles, “Interlock/Visionary Roadmaps,” begins with the Herb Alpert disco of “Interlock,” again, one of the most interesting and cool tracks that the groop has released in some time. This drives the point further toward home that Stereolab is a strongly singles-oriented band, as their full-length material occasionally contains a dull track, and their 5 to 7 song EPs rarely surpass OK. “Interlock,” through and through, is a superior tune and I commend Stereolab for outoding themselves on this outstanding release. And while we’re at it, let’s get the b-side out of the way, since it’s pretty darned good, too. “Visionary Roadmaps,” melodically, is somewhat similar to it’s a-side counterpart, though less fuzzy and more in line with the jazzy pop of Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night. And, like two-thirds of the material on these singles, it makes for one hell of a psychedelic dance party.
Stereolab, thankfully, hasn’t lost anything in their 15 years releasing music. The majority of the songs on these singles are absolutely fantastic, and even the two throwaway instrumentals are pretty good. The seven-inch format has always suited Stereolab, and if they weren’t so damn generous with their mountains of material, I’d suggest they include more of these songs on their full-lengths.
Stereolab – Oscillons from the Anti-Sun
Broadcast – Work and Non-Work
Lali Puna – I Thought I Was Over That
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.