Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stereolab Is Not Music

Not Music is the first album from Stereolab since they announced their "hiatus," in Spring 2009 and their first album since 2008's Chemical Chords. And while they're on hiatus for now, the band have decided to release an album anyway. As against the very idea of taking a hiatus as releasing an album is, their work ethic and inability to sit still is our apparent gain. From the various side projects, special appearances and a zillion other things that the members of the Lab have participated in, their twelfth album, Not Music, sees the band picking right back up where they've always left off and continuing their journey through the world of space age bachelor pad music.

Not Music is yet another fantastic album in a long line of fantastic albums and finds the band in fine exploratory form. Taking the French pop / German prog rock template that they invented and perfected years ago and adding all kinds of new ideas to it, Stereolab continue to raise the bar of space age pop music for the swingin' set. With electronica flourishes, never ending grooves, hypnotizing bass lines, and a sense of etherealness Not Music is a constantly evolving and stunning record that sees the band mix vocal and instrumental passages with ease. Loaded with spacial atmospherics, seductive hooks, and a eternal jam vibe, Stereolab lock into grooves and have a hard time breaking out of them. Their perpetual desire to take minimalism to the max is truly awesome and a song like, "Silver Sands," is not only awesome, but could foreseeably go on forever.

While not as riddled with pop hits as some of their previous efforts were (see Mars Audiac Quintet) No Music offers the listener a leaner more experimental Stereolab who seem to be continually fascinated by finding out what all their keyboards can do. With instrumental passages sidling next to vocal works nicely, the album flows rather smoothly into one long space prog jam that doesn't want to end. The whole thing sounds as if Stereolab are a bit more rejuvenated than they'd like to admit which might indicate that their hiatus has worked to their advantage. No Music is a fresh free flowing record that's loaded with fascinating musicianship and seems influenced by improvisation more than song structures. Whatever it's been influenced by and however it's been written, the simple fact is, Not Music is anything but; it's all music.

It's nice to see this group fifteen years on is still able to compose challenging, accessible tunes that sound as futuristic as they do vintage and to do it so charmingly and quietly is awesome. I've been following this band for an eternity and even have the coffee mug to prove it and I have to say, they truly have never produced a bad record. Not Music is a musical moogy wonderland that's a joy to listen to on repeat. Fifteen years on, these guys still have it even if they're not supposed to still have it...you know, because they're on hiatus.

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