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Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night

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Stereolab 9/21/1999

Review

Stereolab took an unprecedented two years between 1997's Dots & Loops and 1999's Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, as they tended to personal matters. During those two years, Stereolab's brand of sophisticated, experimental post-rock didn't evolve too much, even as colleagues like Tortoise, Jim O'Rourke, and the High Llamas tried other things. Since each Stereolab album offered a significant progression from the next, it would have been fair to assume that when they returned, it would be with a leap forward, especially since Tortoise's John McEntire and O'Rourke were co-producers. Perhaps that's the reason that the album feels slightly disappointing. The group has absorbed McEntire's jazz-fusion leanings -- "Fuses" kicks off the album in compelling, free-jazz style -- and the music continually bears O'Rourke's attention to detail, but it winds up sounding like O'Hagan's increasing tendency of making music that's simply sound for sound's sake. Throughout it all, Stereolab's trademarks remain in place, but they're augmented by horn arrangements, dissonance, muted trumpets, and electric keyboards all out of jazz from the late '60s, whether it's bossa nova or fusion. All fascinating in theory and often in practice, but Cobra still winds up being less than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's because the longer pieces drift instead of hypnotize or develop, or maybe it's because the songs sound like afterthoughts to the arrangements (a criticism leveled at Stereolab before). In any case, Cobra never hits its stride, even as it offers a few miniature masterpieces along the way. As an album, Cobra is their first record since Transient Random Noise Bursts to not be fully realized. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Fuses Stereolab 3:36
  3. 2 People Do It All the Time Stereolab 3:40
  4. 3 The Free Design Stereolab 3:45
  5. 4 Blips, Drips, and Strips Stereolab 4:27
  6. 5 Italian Shoes Continuum Stereolab 4:33
  7. 6 Infinity Girl Stereolab 3:53
  8. 7 The Spiracles Stereolab 3:39
  9. 8 Op Hop Detonation Stereolab 3:30
  10. 9 Puncture in the Radax Permutation Stereolab 5:49
  11. 10 Velvet Water Stereolab 4:21
  12. 11 Blue Milk Stereolab 11:28
  13. 12 Caleidoscopic Gaze Stereolab 8:6
  14. 13 Strobo Acceleration Stereolab 3:53
  15. 14 The Emergency Kisses Stereolab 5:54
  16. 15 Come and Play in the Milky Night Stereolab 4:35

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