Review Summary: Stereolab’s forte is all the above and more; if this is truly their last album then they have become one of the most consistent, diverse and noteworthy group of the last 20 years.
By all means Stereolab are an experimental group, but their vocal allure has remained since they started their careers back in beginning of the 90’s. It is understandable to see why when most listen to this group they don’t feel a drastic change in sound, after all Lætitia Sadier vocals are mesmerizing when she uses them, but in reality, they are extremely diverse in every arrangement over the years– so it bears the question where else could they really go? If you’ve paid attention Stereolab’s career you’d know that behind the classic melodies that have drowned their sound for many years, they’re at heart an exploratory group. From French spoken Marxist messages, heavy synthesizer melodies, indie pop embraces, funk rhythm movements, early Kraut Rock intertwined with outdated synthesizers and just before their hiatus a more disco oriented feel, so it’s easy not to notice what they exactly are because their methods of musicianship drastically change from album to album, sometimes song to song. From the beginning of their careers the signs within Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements
showed they could shape a unique and experimental sound that was both enjoyable and daring in every sense, yet it wasn’t thin on inspiration or generic in any way. So, Stereolab have been around for quite a long time, veterans of many scenes you could say, and since they’ve evolved and extended their sound then most bands would only dream of it is always fun to actually take in their music in stride.
It is quite ironic to believe that a group such as this would delve backwards into their discography because they’ve only done it once and that was with their electronic sequel to Dots and Loops
; the stagnation in Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night
would mark a first for the group, only to release the fantastic layered production with Sound-Dust
. It is unfortunate since those initial years of their career could arguably be their best, where most would long for the early kraut rock jams and synthesizer laden pop melodies that hinged on laid-back lounge and bossa nova rhythm. It is justly naive though to actually want this; Stereolab were and always will be a progressive band without borders except for Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier dedication to keep some form of pop within their music no matter how outright odd and obtrusive it may have sounded.
This 2010 release, a post-hiatus creation, was given as a farewell to their fans when they announced their split. Not Music
was made during the touring for Chemical Chords
and it still amazes that a group that have released so much material can still feel they still have so much more to give. It may be that their diversity that has shown so much gradation within every song have given them such an impenetrable force that it has become almost too
hard to dislike. Their pop aggressiveness in their latter careers have become a staple in their music, more so then their early avant-garde attitudes of pre-Emperor Tomato Ketchup
and you still notice some sporadic electronic grooviness within some Not Music
, but what is more careless (in the best way possible) is their free-flow within these tracks. It still remains even at the fringe of their careers that they can simultaneously bring a track like “Silver Sands”, with its hard-edged and minimalistic repetition that is extremely open for Sadier and Gane to move in and out with a myriad of influences; whereas they earlier moved with a strict pop regime with “Equivelances”.
Taking this album in perspective it is more so a prototypical Stereolab album. They move through influences on a whim and it is a delight to listen to it. They do it seamlessly with what feels and sounds like these genres were meant to be mashed up into a heap or madly stacked into one corner only to be churned out to the eventual creation we hear now. What is magnificent is the fact that every alteration they make to a song it only improves on its past form, a true rarity in most music. And when we don’t get that countless movement within their music it is for one a disappointing minimalistic pop affair. That by no means is even bad to say the least, just not as memorable as the other tracks.
Stereolab is in essence a shifty animal that never were satisfied with a labeled sound – it’s what makes this band so timeless. They change fearlessly from one sound to another, like a mash-up of 60’s reminiscence, merely to push forward a modern sound into that very same song. It sound truly daunting, but Stereolab haven’t vanished ever and this album, Not Music
, still proves that they never lost it. In fact anyone who doubted them should probably rediscover what made them so enduring.