Today's Artists are combining an inclination for melodic '60s pop with an art rock aesthetic borrowed from Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu!, they were one of the most influential alternative bands of the '90s. Led by Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, the ensemble 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 -- 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. ........N'Joy
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In 1985, Tim Gane formed McCarthy, a band from Essex, England known for their left-wing politics. Gane met the French-born Lætitia Sadier at a McCarthy concert in Paris and the two quickly fell in love. The musically-inclined Sadier was disillusioned with the rock scene in France and soon moved to London to be with Gane and to pursue her career. After three albums, McCarthy broke up in 1990 and Gane immediately formed Stereolab with Sadier (who had also contributed vocals to McCarthy's final album) and ex-Chills bassist Martin Kean. The group's name was taken from a division of Vanguard Records demonstrating hi-fi effects.Gane and Sadier, along with future Stereolab manager Martin Pike, created a record label called Duophonic Super 45s—which, along with later offshoot Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks, would be commonly known as "Duophonic
The band originally comprised songwriting team Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Lætitia Sadier (vocals/keyboards/guitar), both of whom remained at the helm across many lineup changes. Other long-time members include Mary Hansen (backing vocals/keyboards/guitar), who played with the group from 1992 until her accidental death in 2002, and Andy Ramsay (drums), who joined in 1993, and who is still in the official line-up.
In 1992 Stereolab's first full-length album, Peng!, and first compilation, Switched On, were released on independent label Too Pure. Around this time, the lineup coalesced around Gane and Sadier plus vocalist Mary Hansen, drummer Andy Ramsay, bassist Duncan Brown, keyboardist Katharine Gifford, and guitarist Sean O'Hagan of the 1980s famed Microdisney duo. Hansen, an Australian, had been in touch with Gane since his McCarthy days. After joining, she and Sadier developed a style of vocal counterpoint that distinguished Stereolab's sound until Hansen's death ten years later in 2002.
Beginning with their 1993 EP Space Age Batchelor Pad Music, the band began to incorporate easy-listening elements into their sound. This release raised Stereolab's profile and landed them a major-label American record deal with Elektra Records. Their next album, 1993's Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, was their first American release under Elektra, and became an underground hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. On 8 January 1994, Stereolab achieved their first chart entry when their 1993 EP Jenny Ondioline entered at #75 on the UK Singles Chart.
With their 1994 full-length, Mars Audiac Quintet, Stereolab focused more on pop and less on rock, the album makes heavy use of vintage electronic instruments, and also contains the single "Ping Pong", which gained press coverage for its allegedly explicitly Marxist lyrics. After releasing a 1995 collection of singles and B-sides called Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2. Stereolab's 1996 album, Emperor Tomato Ketchup, was a critical success and was played heavily on college radio. A record that "captivated alternative rock", it represented Stereolab's "high-water mark". Krautrock techniques were still present, but the band stirred the pot with hip-hop sounds and complex instrumental arrangements. John McEntire (Tortoise) assisted with production and also played on Emperor Tomato Ketchup, while Katharine Gifford was replaced by Morgane Lhote before its recording, and bassist Duncan Brown by Richard Harrison afterward.
Dots and Loops was released in 1997, and was Stereolab's first album to enter the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at #111. Stereolab transformed the harder Velvet Underground-like riffs of previous releases into "softer sounds and noisy playfulness". Contributors to the album once again included John McEntire, along with Sean O'Hagan of The High Llamas and Jan St. Werner of German electropop duo Mouse on Mars. A Nurse With Wound collaboration, Simple Headphone Mind, appeared in 1997, and the third release in the "Switched On" series, Aluminum Tunes, followed in 1998.
The band then took a break from traveling while Gane and Sadier had a child. In 1999, Stereolab's next album appeared, titled Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night. Co-produced by McEntire and American producer Jim O'Rourke, the album earned mixed reviews for its lighter sound, and peaked at #154 on the Billboard 200. The full-length Sound-Dust followed in 2001, and rose to #178 on the Billboard 200. Again featuring producers McEntire and O'Rourke, it was more warmly received than the previous album with the emphasis less on unfocused experimentation and more on melody.
In 2002, Stereolab began to plan their next album, and started building a studio north of Bordeaux, France. In October 2002, the band released ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions; a compilation of BBC Radio 1 sessions. The year also saw Gane and Sadier end their romantic relationship. On 9 December 2002, longstanding band member Mary Hansen was killed when struck by a truck while riding her bicycle. Born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, Hansen earned the most attention for her vocal work with Stereolab, although she also played the guitar and keyboards. For the next few months, Stereolab lay dormant as the members grieved. They eventually decided to continue; as Sadier explained in a 2004 interview: "Losing Mary is still incredibly painful ... But it's also an opportunity to transform and move on. It's a new version. We've always had new versions, people coming in and out. That's life."
The full-length album Margerine Eclipse followed in 2004 to generally positive reviews, and peaked at #174 on the US Billboard 200. The track "Feel and Triple" was written in tribute to Hansen; according to Sadier "I was reflecting on my years with her ... reflecting on how we sometimes found it hard to express the love we had for one another. It was Stereolab's last record on their American label Elektra Records, which closed down in 2004. The album was followed by Oscillons from the Anti-Sun; a 2005 three-CD and one-DVD retrospective of the group's rarer material. In 2005 and 2006, Stereolab released six limited-edition singles which were collected in Fab Four Suture, and contained material which Mark Jenkins thought continued the brisker sound of the band's post-Hansen work.
Serene Velocity, a "best-of" compilation focusing on the band's Elektra years, was released in late 2006. By June 2007, Stereolab's lineup comprised Tim Gane, Lætitia Sadier, Andy Ramsay, Simon Johns, Dominic Jeffrey, Joseph Watson, and Joseph Walters. The band had finished the production of their next album, entitled Chemical Chords, which was released in August 2008 on the 4AD label. The release of the album was followed by an autumn tour of Europe and the United States. In April 2009, manager Martin Pike announced a pause in the band's career together for the time being. After 19 years, he stated they felt it was time to take a rest and move on to new projects.
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Switched On collects Stereolab's earliest singles, capturing the group's hypnotic, driving sound in its infancy. Though they're more guitar-driven and rock-oriented than the band's later work, tracks like "Super-Electric" and "Au Grand Jour" prove that Stereolab's basic style -- Krautrock lock-grooves, bubbling analog synths, fuzzed-out guitars, and angelic vocals -- arrived fully formed. "Doubt" and "Brittle" are among the group's most vibrant pop songs, while the eight-minute "Contact" is a warm-up for the epics the band would include on albums like Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements. Reflective pieces like "The Way Will Be Opening" and "High Expectation" show off Laetitia Sadier's coolly sophisticated, Nico-meets-Francoise Hardy vocals, while "The Light That Will Cease to Fail" manages to be poppy, kinetic, and bittersweet all at once. Though the group would go on to make even more impressive albums, the newness of Stereolab's sound is palpable on Switched On, giving the songs an added vitality. Obviously, it's an impressive debut, but it's captivating in its own right.
Stereolab - Switched On (flac 280mb)
01 Super-Electric 5:23
02 Doubt 3:25
03 Au Grand Jour 3:28
04 The Way Will Be Opening 4:07
05 Brittle 3:47
06 Contact 8:17
07 Au Grand Jour 3:40
08 High Expectation 3:32
09 The Light That Will Cease to Fail 3:23
10 Changer 4:54
Stereolab - Switched On (92) (ogg 100mb)
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With its full-length debut Peng!, Stereolab continued to develop a unique approach to experimental pop music, building on the seriously playful mix of Krautrock, dream pop, and lounge forged on the band's early singles. The album's first three tracks present the basic kinds of songs that the band would explore in the future: the tense, brooding "Super Falling Star" builds on simple keyboard drones and chilly, choral vocals; "Orgiastic" is a prototypically chugging, droning guitar and keyboard workout; and the sweet, bouncy melody and "ba ba ba" backing vocals of "Peng! 33" define Stereolab's early pop sound. "Perversion" mixes a heavy, dance-inspired beat with strummy, Velvet Underground guitars and Beach Boys harmonies, while "The Seeming and the Meaning" and "Stomach Worm" are two of the band's most dynamic, rock-oriented songs. Dreamy, melancholy songs like "K-Stars" and "You Little Shits" and the fuzzed-out "Mellotron" and "Enivrez-Vous" represent, respectively, the soft and loud aspects of Stereolab's more experimental side, and "Surrealchemist" manages to combine all of the aspects of the group's sound, with overtly Marxist lyrics to boot. While Peng! doesn't feature many of Stereolab's most instantly recognizable compositions, it defines the group's early style and reflects the eclectic directions pursued in later work.
Stereolab - Peng ! (flac 271mb)
01 Super Falling Star 3:16
02 Orgiastic 4:44
03 Peng! 33 3:03
04 K-Stars 4:04
05 Perversion 5:01
06 You Little Shits 3:25
07 The Seeming And The Meaning 3:48
08 Mellotron 2:47
09 Enivrez-Vous 3:51
10 Stomach Worm 6:35
11 Surrealchemist 7:13
Stereolab - Peng ! (ogg 100mb)
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Released in 1993, Space Age Bachelor Pad Music refined Stereolab's sound further and also showcased the increasingly experimental focus of the band's music. Split into two sides -- the gentle, intricate "Easy Listening" and the more upbeat "New Wave" -- this eight-song EP ranges from the bubbly keyboard piece "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (Foamy)" to the defiant, driving groove of "We're Not Adult Orientated." The sweet, close harmonies on "Ronco Symphony" and "The Groop Play Chord X" edge closer to the sophisticated, lounge pop-inspired sound explored during the rest of Stereolab's career, while the vibes of "Avant Garde M.O.R." and the fizzy keyboards of "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (Mellow)" spotlight the band's more texturally complex arrangements. However, the immediacy of "We're Not Adult Orientated (Neu Wave Live)" and the hypnotic, fuzzy guitars on "U.H.F. - MFP" prove that while Stereolab gained more polish and ambition on Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, the band didn't lose any of its kinetic edge.
Stereolab - The Groop Played Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (flac 317mb)
01 Avant Garde M.O.R. 4:09
02 Space Age Bachelor Pad Music 1:44
03 The Groop Play Chord X 2:01
04 Space Age Bachelor Pad Music 2:13
05 Ronco Symphony 3:35
06 We're Not Adult Orientated 6:07
07 U.H.F. -MFP 4:53
08 We're Not Adult Orientated 3:34
Bonus Low Fi EP
09 Low Fi 5:21
10 (Varoom!) 9:00
11 Laisser-Faire 4:33
12 Elektro (He Held The World In His Iron Grip) 5:50
Stereolab - The Groop Played Space Age Bachelor Pad Music (ogg 115mb)
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By the time of 1994's Mars Audiac Quintet, Stereolab had already highlighted the rock and experimental sides of its music; now the band concentrated on perfecting its space-age pop. Sweetly bouncy songs like "Ping Pong" and "L' Enfer des Formes" streamline the band's sound without sacrificing its essence; track for track, this may be the group's most accessible, tightly written album. The groove-driven "Outer Accelerator," "Wow and Flutter," and "Transona Five" (which sounds strangely like Canned Heat's "Goin' Up the Country") reaffirm Stereolab's Krautrock roots, but the band's sweet synth melodies and vocal arrangements give it a pop patina. Even extended pieces like "Anamorphose" and "Nihilist Assault Group" -- which could have appeared on Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements if they had a rawer production -- are more sensual and voluptuous than edgy and challenging. It's equally apparent on layered, complex songs such as "New Orthophony" and "The Stars Our Destination," as well as spare, minimal tracks like "Des Etoiles Electroniques," that the members of Stereolab focused their experimental energies on production tricks, vocal interplay, and increasingly electronic-based arrangements. The charming final track "Fiery Yellow" takes the band's fondness for lounge pop and experimentation to the limit; a delicate, marimba-driven piece featuring the High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan, it sounds like the kind of music Esquivel or Martin Denny would be proud to make in the '90s. While it's not as overtly innovative as some of Stereolab's earlier albums, Mars Audiac Quintet is an enjoyable, accessible forerunner to the intricate, cerebral direction the group's music would take in the mid- and late '90s.
Stereolab - Mars Audiac Quintet (flac 418mb)
01 Three-Dee Melodie 5:02
02 Wow And Flutter 3:08
03 Transona Five 5:32
04 Des Étoiles Électroniques 3:20
05 Ping Pong 3:02
06 Anamorphose 7:33
07 Three Longers Later 3:28
08 Nihilist Assault Group 6:55
09 International Colouring Contest 3:47
10 The Stars Our Destination 2:58
11 Transporté Sans Bouger 4:20
12 L'Enfer Des Formes 3:53
13 Outer Accelerator 5:21
14 New Orthophony 4:34
15 Fiery Yellow 4:04
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Previously Sundaze 1114, recently re-upped
Stereolab - Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (flac 359mb)
Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup (flac 369mb )