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Serene Velocity - a Stereolab Anthology

Stereolab

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Album Review

Whittling Stereolab's impressive (in terms of both size and quality) discography down to a single-disc retrospective is a daunting task, but Rhino's collection handles it well enough that only the fussiest completists could complain. Granted, Serene Velocity — a title so apt it feels like it was borrowed from some long-lost, limited-run 'Lab 7" — gets a head start by concentrating on the band's output during their time with Elektra, but that's still 13 years, seven albums, and several EPs worth of material to choose from. Nevertheless, the collection hones in on each release's definitive tracks with lock-groove accuracy: "Jenny Ondioline" and "Crest" capture Transient Random Noise-Bursts with Announcements' bracing, droning sound, while "Ping Pong" and "Wow and Flutter" reflect the more overtly pop direction of Mars Audiac Quintet. Emperor Tomato Ketchup is the only album to have three tracks culled from it ("Cybele's Reverie," "Metronomic Underground," and "Percolator"), all of which show how the group incorporated jazz, funk, hip-hop, and chamber pop into what many consider their masterpiece. The more abstract, aloof feel of Stereolab's work from Dots and Loops to Sound-Dust is well-represented by "Brakhage," "Infinity Girl," and "Double Rocker," while "Vonal Declosion" and "...Sudden Stars" mark Margerine Eclipse's return to poppier terrain. Indeed, the whole collection is so even-handed that it may bore long-term fans (the inclusion of Sound-Dust's "Space Moth" instead of its lead single, "Captain Easychord," is the only remotely controversial choice here), but it works very well as a primer for new listeners.

Biography

Formed: 1991 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Combining an inclination for melodic '60s pop with an art rock aesthetic borrowed from Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu!, Stereolab were one of the most influential alternative bands of the '90s. Led by Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab either legitimized 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. The group's trademark sound —...
Full bio
Serene Velocity - a Stereolab Anthology, Stereolab
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