Stereolab
Sound-Dust


4.5
superb

Review

by Colton USER (8 Reviews)
October 18th, 2020 | 101 replies


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unpredictable yet cohesive stream of ideas and rhythms

Sound-Dust hits you right away with a strong feeling of energy and movement, with notes being rapidly fired off at almost all times, and everything maintaining a fairly quick tempo. Synths and keys blend with horns, scattered drums, and tight fingerstyle guitar rhythms to create a lively and engaging sound. It’s rare for any one note to ring out for more than two seconds before being buried beneath the notes following it. This makes it so regardless of what the album is trying to convey at any time, it conveys it with a sense of urgency. For the most part, nothing drags here, and the fact that everything is so densely layered makes simple melodies and chord progressions feel complex. But despite this, Stereolab has the ability to create a mesmerizing, almost hazy atmosphere that pulls the listener in slowly. It’s a combination of elements that doesn’t entirely make sense, but they pull it off flawlessly.

One of the most impressive qualities about the album is its ability to convey so many different moods. At first it’s sinister and cold, with a sharp, abrasive barrage of notes blending with a subdued yet eerie vocal melody. As opener "Black Ants In Sound-Dust" progresses, it becomes increasingly chaotic, before ending abruptly. It’s a bit of a fake out, as it lulls you in with a certain sound, and then suddenly disrupts it with another. This is something Sound-Dust is doing constantly. It has a willingness to veer sharply from one idea to the next, but there’s a level of cohesion in the types of rhythms and melodies used that keeps it from feeling formless. At one moment it’ll be unsettling and dark, and the next it’ll be cheerful and uplifting. It conveys a sense of worry and paranoia, and then immediately cuts it off with upbeat and carefree melodies and arrangements. It never pulls you in one direction for too long, and because of that it’s always engaging. It touches on a variety of themes and topics, from musings about the cycle of life and death, to incompetent doctors, to desperate cries of “I feel so lonely.” It alternates between general observations on life, and more personal declarations. And certain songs blend sounds together in a way that really shouldn’t feel as cohesive as it does. "Captain Easychord" mixes upbeat, jazzy rhythms with country-influenced slide guitar sections, before transitioning to a smooth, synth-heavy outro. Halfway through “Baby Lulu,” the song evolves into a series of rapid, arpeggiated harp notes, giving an unexpected but gorgeous change of pace and tone. But like many songs here, it blends even its most soothing and accessible melodies with a mysterious element. There are a lot of beautiful moments, but it’s never just beautiful for too long before throwing something else into the mix.

The dynamic structure of a lot of these songs is a defining trait of Stereolab’s sound, but not every song is like this. On the album’s second half, it allows itself a bit more space to breathe, with fewer sudden shifts occurring. "Naught More Terrific Than Man" opens with an easygoing groove and actually maintains it from beginning to end, allowing its slow staccato-like guitars and moody horn sections to create something mesmerizing. But as always, there are layers packed beneath the surface. "Nothing To Do With Me" is more of the same, and settles on a more conventional song structure. It’s carefree and light, but with its distorted synths and minor tones in the chorus, retains some of that Stereolab weirdness. But while these songs are always pleasant, their placement on the album is a bit questionable. Given that it’s a 63 minute album, the less creative tracks here can feel a bit cumbersome when contrasted with the frenetic energy and unpredictability of songs like Space Moth. They aren’t quite as engaging, but that’s partially because by the time you get to them, the album has already hit you with 45 minutes of rapidly shifting sounds and ideas.

Despite this, Sound-Dust’s ability to fit so many different rhythms, melodies and arrangements into one package is extremely impressive. In the hands of a lesser band this album could come across as messy, but Stereolab have a remarkable ability to convey a wide array of ideas in a way that feels consistent and compact. And while there are so many different sounds to unpack on this album, none of it sounds quite like anyone else.



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user ratings (68)
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Colton
October 18th 2020


9104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

experimental

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 18th 2020


66859 Comments


This review is a bit experimental for my tastes

Colton
October 18th 2020


9104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes I’m really pushing the boundaries with this one, even italicized a word

Ryus
October 18th 2020


23146 Comments


gud band never heard this one tho

Digging: woesum - blue summer

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 18th 2020


66859 Comments


You should go back in and replace every adjective with the word "experimental"

Do it for the meme

Trifolium
October 18th 2020


23634 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Coltoooooooon!!!! That's great news, haven't read yet but I'll do so soon!

Suuuuuper happy this got a review! I'll bump this mega often I fear hahahah!

JustJoe.
October 18th 2020


10613 Comments


dunno if i like you enough yet to pos without reading

Digging: HMOT - Oneirology

JustJoe.
October 18th 2020


10613 Comments


will consider it though

Colton
October 18th 2020


9104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What if I told you Laminate Pet Animal by Snowmine is a great and underrated album?



@trif sounds good man, bump away. Always good to make a new thread

JustJoe.
October 18th 2020


10613 Comments


*double pos*

quite the riveting & captivating review i love your work colt 4 staff when

Colton
October 18th 2020


9104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lol thanks Joe. I’m guessing this time next week



@pots Halfway through “Baby Lulu,” the song evolves into a series of experimental, experimental harp notes, giving an experimental but experimental change of pace and tone.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 18th 2020


66859 Comments


An experimental yet experimental stream of ideas and rhythms



normaloctagon
October 18th 2020


5236 Comments


"But despite this, Stereolab have*..."

Pos'd. You are a great writer, loved the review. Only have Dots and Loops digital, I'll check this one next.

edit: the "but" is unnecessary actually but I think it's one of those doubles that people notice less and less these days since it still sounds (technically is?) grammatically correct.

normaloctagon
October 18th 2020


5236 Comments


secret's out I'm a grammar nut

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2020


34957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fuck yes, stoked to read this

Digging: Xiu Xiu - OH NO

AnimalsAsSummit
October 19th 2020


5472 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

glad to see this got a review! and a very good one. amazing album!!

Digging: The Veldt - The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
October 19th 2020


34957 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay, good shit - you nailed the sense of how this shifts directions like 3 times a song but still feels smooth af. Pos pos, and if you haven't checked Margerine Eclipse, you might find that interesting for a more scattergun version of the same

Now can we all talk about how Space Moth and Naught More Terrific than Man are both probably top 10 Stereolab songs

Colton
October 19th 2020


9104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys. Really ended up loving this one. Had to keep rewriting parts of this as it grew on me



Margerine Eclipse is next (what a name)

Trifolium
October 19th 2020


23634 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Space Moth is mega up there for me yes, such a good song.

Trifolium
October 19th 2020


23634 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YOU'RE NOT A DOCTOOOOOR

YOU'RE A WANKERRRR!!!!!!!



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