October 9, 2003

Test Spin: Stereolab

Print More

Instant O in the Universe is the latest Stereolab release following the unfortunate death of vocalist and keyboardist Mary Hansen. This five-song EP, recorded over the summer in Bordeaux, France, can be in seen as a comeback in a certain sense. While Stereolab proves they still can deliver their archetypal mix of kraut-rock grooves and dreamy pop, Instant O brings nothing new to the table. Granted Stereolab, along with producer Fulton Dingley, tweak a few extra knobs for some video-game-like sound effects, the slight textural modifications are a far cry from any forward-looking artistic progression.

Stereolab purists, however, will more than likely be content with Instant O. Fast-moving, delicate symbol and drum hits still support ’70s euro-funk guitar, topped off by thick, creamy keyboard melodies. The chanteuse-styled lead vocals and backup harmonies, sometime sung in French, English at other times, flow capriciously in and out of the instrumental mix. Sound familiar? Exactly.

On the final track of the EP, “Mass Riff,” the band takes a slight departure from the typical. After an introduction almost indistinguishable from the other tracks, the vocals give way to an instrumental disco breakdown that features tightly picked guitar along with syncopated bass and drums. Eventually the vocals work over the new-groove in what seems to be Stereolab’s take on the disco-punk rebirth.

Maybe their full-length album due out next year will reveal a made over Stereolab. Unfortunately, from the likes of this EP, the chances remain slim. Well, we can always hope.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman