Slacker Logo

Stereolab

Advertisement
Advertisement

Biography

One of the most distinctive alternative bands to emerge in the '90s, Stereolab either celebrated forms of music that were on the fringe of rock, or brought attention to strands of pop music -- bossa nova, lounge-pop, movie soundtracks -- that were traditionally banished from the rock lineage. Led by Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, the group's trademark sound -- a droning, hypnotic rhythm track overlaid with melodic, mesmerizing singsong vocals, often sung in French and often promoting revolutionary, Marxist politics -- was deceptively simple, providing the basis for a wide array of stylistic experiments over the course of their prolific career. On early singles and albums such as 1993's Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, Stereolab combined '60s pop melodies with an art rock aesthetic borrowed from Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu!, but by the time of 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup, their sound incorporated jazz, hip-hop, and dance. Their collaborations with John McEntire and Jim O'Rourke on albums such as 1997's Dots and Loops and 2001's Sound-Dust found Stereolab pursuing an increasingly intricate, experimental approach. Following the tragic 2002 death of member Mary Hansen, the band returned to a poppier style for later albums like 2008's Chemical Chords. Stereolab's unmistakable sound had a lasting impact: During the '90s, indie contemporaries such as Pavement and Blur aped their style, while hip-hop artists such as J Dilla and Tyler the Creator sampled the band's music or collaborated with its members in the 2000s and 2010s. Tim Gane (born July 12, 1964; guitar, keyboards) was the leader of McCarthy, a London-based band from the late '80s that functioned as a prototype for Stereolab's sound. Gane met Laetitia Sadier (born May 6, 1968; vocals, keyboards), a French-born vocalist, at one of McCarthy's concerts. The pair began a romantic relationship that became a musical collaboration after McCarthy disbanded in 1990; Sadier sang on the final McCarthy album. The duo began recording as Stereolab, borrowing the name from Vanguard Records' hi-fi effects division in the '50s. Gane and Sadier also formed the label Duophonic Records with manager Martin Pike to release their singles. Stereolab's first year of existence was prolific: The debut EP Super 45 arrived in May 1991, followed quickly by the Super-Electric EP that September and the Stunning Debut Album EP that November. At that point, the group was working with Th' Faith Healers drummer Joe Dilworth and former Chills bassist Martin Kean; Gina Morris occasionally provided backup vocals. Too Pure released the band's first full-length Peng! in May 1992, and the EP compilation Switched On in October. As with all of the band's releases from this era, both albums featured the visual trademark of a maniacally grinning cartoon taken from a '70s Swiss political comic (which the band named "Cliff"). That year, the band also issued the Lo-Fi EP and added keyboardist/vocalist Mary Hansen and drummer Andy Ramsay to the fold. Released in early 1993, Stereolab's The Groop Played "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music" EP featured the core group of Gane, Sadier, Hansen, and Ramsay, along with ex-Microdisney guitarist Sean O'Hagan and bassist Duncan Brown. One of the first '90s alternative records to explicitly draw from the "Space Age" lounge-pop music of the '50s, The Groop became an underground sensation, paving the way toward Stereolab's first American record contract with Elektra Records. Their next album, and first American release, was Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. Released in August 1993, it became an underground and college hit throughout the U.S. and U.K. They followed it that October with Crumb Duck, a split EP with Nurse with Wound. Early the following year, the Jenny Ondioline EP became Stereolab's first charting release when it entered the U.K. Singles chart at number 75. Stereolab soon became a hip name to drop for many musicians, including Sonic Youth, Pavement, and Blur, who had Laetitia Sadier provide guest vocals on their 1994 hit single "To the End." Where Transient was dominated by a lo-fi experimentalism, the group's sound became lusher and more layered with Mars Audiac Quintet, which was released in August 1994. O'Hagan moved from a full member to a part-time guest during the recording of the album -- he was busy forming his own band, the High Llamas -- and the band added keyboardist Katherine Gifford. By the time of Mars Audiac Quintet's release, Stereolab's style was prominent throughout the underground, and the group began to change its approach. Created for an interactive art exhibit by Charles Long, the limited-edition 1995 EP Music for the Amorphous Body Center boasted detailed, intricate string and vocal arrangements which were more sophisticated than the group's previous releases. That July, the band issued its second rarities compilation, Refried Ectoplasm, which was released on Drag City in the U.S. Before the band recorded a new album, Gifford was replaced by Morgane Lhote. Featuring contributions from Tortoise's John McEntire, 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup was an even bigger departure from the band's early drone rock, demonstrating a heavy hip-hop, jazz, and dance influence. It was Stereolab's greatest success to date, earning positive reviews in both the U.S. and U.K. and becoming a significant college hit in the process. After the recording of Emperor Tomato Ketchup, bassist Duncan Brown was replaced by Richard Harrison. That year, the band worked with Herbie Mann on "One Note Samba/Surfboard," which appeared on the Red Hot Organization's AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Rio. At the end of 1996, Stereolab released the limited-edition, horn-driven Fluorescences EP. For their next album, Dots and Loops, the band reunited with McEntire and recruited Mouse on Mars' Jan St. Werner; after its September 1997 release, it peaked at number 111 on the Billboard 200 chart. Another Nurse with Wound collaboration, Simple Headphone Mind, appeared that year, and singer/poet Brigitte Fontaine joined Stereolab on the 1998 single "Calimero," which featured the debut of Sadier's other project Monade on its B-side. Aluminum Tunes, the group's third rarities collection, appeared in October 1998. After taking time off from touring following the birth of Gane and Sadier's first child, Stereolab resurfaced in 1999 with the intricate Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, which featured production by McEntire and Jim O'Rourke. An EP, The First of the Microbe Hunters, quickly followed in 2000. Their seventh full-length, 2001's Sound-Dust, reunited the band with O'Rourke and McEntire and took a more melodic approach. In 2002, Sadier and Gane ended their relationship, but Stereolab continued. The collection ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions arrived that October, just a few months before Hansen died at the age of 36 when the bicycle she was riding was hit by a truck in December 2002. Following Hansen's death, the group soldiered on, releasing The Instant 0 in the Universe EP in October 2003 and the full-length Margerine Eclipse -- a tribute to Hansen -- in January 2004. After Elektra Records folded later in 2004, Stereolab returned to Too Pure, which released a series of six limited-edition singles collected on 2006's Fab Four Suture. The group re-teamed with producer/arranger Sean O'Hagan for 2008's Chemical Chords, a collection of short, poppy songs released by 4AD. Following their Australian tour in February 2009, Stereolab went on an indefinite hiatus. Not Music, a collection of material recorded during the Chemical Chords sessions, arrived in 2010. Subsequently, Gane formed the kosmiche-inspired trio Cavern of Anti-Matter, which also featured former Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth. Sadier pursued several projects, including solo albums and the groups Little Tornados and the Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. In 2019, Stereolab ended their hiatus to play a series of concerts and festivals that coincided with deluxe reissues of their albums, beginning with Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements and Mars Audiac Quintet that May. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Heather Phares
Read All Read Less

Top Tracks

  1.   Track
    Popularity
  2.   Cybele's Reverie
  3.   Miss Modular
  4.   Metronomic Underground
  5.   French Disko
  6.   Percolator
  7.   Les Yper-Sound
  8.   Diagonals
  9.   Ping Pong
  10.   Margerine Melodie
  11.   Motoroller Scalatron
  12.   Spark Plug
  13.   One Note Samba/Surfboard by Herbie Mann
  14.   Tomorrow Is Already Here
  15.   Blips, Drips, And Strips
  16.   The Noise of Carpet
  17.   The Free Design
  18.   Des Etoiles Electroniques
  19.   Sudden Stars
  20.   International Colouring Contest
  21.   Wow and Flutter
  22.   Peng 33
  23.   The Light That Will Cease to Fail
  24.   Brittle
  25.   Brigitte
  26.   Olv 26
  27.   New Orthophony
  28.   Golden Ball
  29.   Klang Tone
  30.   Space Moment
  31.   Ulan Bator
  32.   Farfisa
  33.   Pack Yr Romantic Mind
  34.   Mountain
  35.   Cadriopo
  36.   Ticker-Tape of the Unconscious
  37.   Strobo Acceleration
  38.   Op Hop Detonation
  39.   Three-Dee Melodie
  40.   Check and Double Check
  41.   Sadistic
  42.   Tone Burst
  43.   Harmonium
  44.   One Small Step
  45.   Pause
  46.   Jenny Ondioline
  47.   Pop Quiz
  48.   Jenny Ondioline, Pt. 2
  49.   Golden Atoms
  50.   Munich Madness
  51.   Drum - Backward Bass
  52.   I'm Going Out of My Way
  53.   Working Title (The Pram Song)
  54.   Spinal Column
  55.   Speedy Car
  56.   Infinity Girl
  57.   Changer
  58.   Revox
  59.   Come and Play in the Milky Night
  60.   Anonymous Collective
  61.   The Brush Descends the Length
  62.   Three Longers Later
  63.   Dear Marge
  64.   Tempter
  65.   Fiery Yellow
  66.   Fruition
  67.   Nihilist Assault Group, Pt. 6
  68.   [Untitled]
  69.   Jenny Ondioline, Pt. 1
  70.   French Disco
  71.   Bop Scotch
  72.   Man With 100 Cells
  73.   Margerine Rock
  74.   Cosmic Country Noir
  75.   Vonal Declosion
  76.   Good Is Me
  77.   Anemie
  78.   Moogie Wonderland
  79.   Moodles
  80.   Les Bon Bons Des Raisons
  81.   Suggestion Diabolique
  82.   Nothing to Do With Me
  83.   Naught More Terrific Than Man
  84.   Gus The Mynah Bird
  85.   Double Rocker
  86.   Hallucinex
  87.   The Black Arts by Friendly Fires
  88.   Baby Lulu
  89.   Captain Easychord
  90.   Space Moth
  91.   With Friends Like These
  92.   Escape Pod (From the World of Medical Observations)
  93.   Blue Milk
  94.   Slow Fast Hazel
  95.   Outer Accelerator
  96.   L' Enfer des Formes
  97.   Transporte Sans Bouger
  98.   The Stars Our Destination
  99.   Nihilist Assault Group
  100.   Anamorphose
  101.   Transona Five
  102.   Lock-Groove Lullaby
  103.   Crest
  104.   Analogue Rock
  105.   Au Grand Jour
  106.   Doubt
  107.   Super-Electric
  108.   The Incredible He Woman
  109.   Theme From Get Carter
  110.   Melochord Seventy-Five
  111.   Heavy Denim
  112.   John Cage Bubblegum
  113.   Eloge D'Eros
  114.   Exploding Head Movie
  115.   Lo Boob Oscillator
  116.   Laissez Faire
  117.   Rainbo Conversation
  118.   The Flower Called Nowhere
  119.   Brakhage
  120.   Soop Groove #1
  121.   You Used to Call Me Sadness
  122.   Pinball
  123.   Fluorescences
  124.   How to Play Your Internal Organs Overnight
  125.   Puncture In the Radak Permutation
  126.   Freestyle Dumping
  127.   I Was a Sunny Rainphase
  128.   Monstre Sacre
  129.   Heavenly Van Halen
  130.   Microclimate
  131.   The Long Hair of Death
  132.   Difficult Fourth Title
  133.   Mudra
  134.   Jaunty Monty and the Bubbles of Silence
  135.   Fragments
  136.   Pain et Spectacles
  137.   Caleidoscopic Gaze
  138.   The Emergency Kisses
  139.   La Demuere
  140.   Les Aimies des Memes
  141.   Puncture in the Radax Permutation
  142.   Animal or Vegetable (A Wonderful Wooden Reason...)
  143.   Intervals
  144.   Household Names
  145.   Outer Bongolia
  146.   I Feel the Air (Of Another Planet)
  147.   Iron Man
  148.   Velvet Water
  149.   Barock-Plastik
  150.   Nihilist Assault Group (parts 1, 2, 3)
  151.   008
  152.   Our Trinitone Blast
  153.   Canned Candies
  154.   Emperor Tomato Ketchup
  155.   The Spiracles
  156.   Parsec
  157.   Feel and Triple
  158.   Allures
  159.   Black Ants In Sound-dust
  160.   University Microfilms International
  161.   Italian Shoes Continuum
  162.   People Do It All the Time
  163.   Suggestion Diaboligue
  164.   Prisoner of Mars
  165.   Fuses
  166.   Hillbilly Motobike
  167.   Nomus et Phusis
  168.   Young Lungs
  169.   Retrograde Mirror Form
  170.   The Extension Trip
  171.   Need To Be
  172.   Long Life Love
  173.   Narco Martenot
  174.   Off-On
  175.   Mass Riff
See Fewer Songs

Related Stations & Specials