Duophonic Ultra High – 2001 – 64 minutes
The kind of support Stereolab tend to inspire is best described as monochromatic – there are no grey areas, only black and white – you like them or you don't. Their biggest appeal lies in their very unique sound: no other band sounds like this. But this is also the Lab's stumbling point, and at album number six there is no sign of musical progression. Their entire musical catalogue, including 'Sound-Dust', sounds like one collective opus.
Sure the vintage analogue synths are beautiful and ooze the warmth that so much electronic music lacks. Layers of tinkly keyboards, real drums and lush brass are the perfect accompaniment to Laetetia Sadier's Gallic harmonies. The disjointed compositional style is still adhered to and sometimes it sounds like there are four concurrent songs contained within a singly-titled tune.
'Black Ants In Sound' begins with an eerie crescendo before transforming into the background music from a children's fairytale. 'Dust Captain Easychord' juggles 'Madchester' keyboards with ska brass and slide guitars. 'Baby Lulu' is a microcosm for the Stereolab sound, all subdued Parisian jauntiness.
While it's hard not to appreciate all that is great about the band, it's difficult to keep liking different versions of the same album. With some of music's biggest non-conformist renegades (John McIntyre, Sean O'Hagan) on the payroll, it's surprising – and disappointing – that the band don't take more chances. Despite it's beauty the album is cloaked in sound-dust. It's about time Stereolab shook it off and tried something new.
Tracklisting: Black Ants In Sound - Space Moth - Dust Captain Easychord - Baby Lulu - The Black Arts - Hallucinex - Double Rocker - Gus The Mynah Bird - Naught - More Terrific Than Man - Nothing To Do With Me - Suggestion Diabolique - Les Bons Bons Des Raisons