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Stereolab

Stereolab

Pop group

Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier told Pulse! : "We're a pop band in the sense that being pop is about knowing how to steal from the past and bring your own personality and ideas into it." Stereolab established itself as a cult favorite, partly because the band "stole" from an eclectic combination of largely ignored musical forms. But while other acts that share their passion for "Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music," easy listening, and other previously debased stylesmostly from the 1950s and '60sStereolab have refused to indulge in camp. Instead, they have taken the adventurous thread of such recordings and followed it into new sonic territory. Meanwhile, Sadier's lyrics have explored political and social issues with a surrealist's sense of poetry. "The whole effect is one of a shiny silver bubble," ventured Kathy Mancall in Addicted to Noise, "an erotically charged Jetsonian '60s vision of the future."

The band began in 1988, when Sadier met British guitarist-songwriter Tim Gane in Paris. Gane, then a member of the moody pop band McCarthy, used some translated lyrics of Sadier's on his band's final album, and the two were both musically and romantically involved shortly thereafter. By 1991 they formed Stereolab, which took its name from a record company of the "hi-fi" era that specialized in recordings designed to exploit the sonic capabilities of stereo equipment. Gane and Sadier also created their own label, Duophonic. Fascinated by the inventive, atmospheric recordings of such composers as Juan Esquivel and Martin Denny, who fused "exotic," symphonic, and avant-garde textures as well as such pop innovators as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Stereolab began searching for new sounds.

The group's approach leaned heavily on out-of-date keyboards, especially old organs. Gane and company took the already spooky tone of such vintage gear and further modified it with other musical effects. "That roughed-up organ, put through an amp and distortedI don't know why, but I'm always attracted to that kind of sound," Gane told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't like things too clean. I like a bit of spillage." Sadier noted to the newspaper's Lorraine Ali that the ensemble "didn't look for that particular sound, we kind of stumbled on it. We happened to find this Farfisa organ, a great big plastic thing from the '70s, in a thrift shop," she added. The sound of this organgenerally considered outdated since its long-vanished heydayappealed strongly to the Stereolab sensibility.

With a shifting crew of personnel that has included singer/guitarist Mary Hansen, bassist Duncan Brown, drummer Andy Ramsay, keyboardist/singer Katharine Gifford, multi-instrumentalist Sean O'Hagan, and a score of guest performers, Stereolab began constructing their idiosyncratic sound. "Basically, Tim writes the music on a 4-track (tape machine) and gets a very thin, sort of skeleton of a song," Sadier noted of their approach in Grip. "And I write some lyrics on top of that, and then we have the bones of the song. And then we either take time to practice it and then take to the studio, or we go straight to the studio and bring flesh to it there. Basically, when we record we've not really worn the songs in, it's really the birth of them."

After a couple of indie releases began to generate a cult following, Stereolab were signed to Elektra Records. Their major label debut, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, stunned critics and suggested that the group's ambitions were expanding. Sadier recalled in Pulse! that the album "was a nightmare to recordeven talking about it brings a pain to my stomach." Yet by the time of 1994's follow-up, Mars Audiac Quintet, she added, Stereolab was "much more in control. You always need to f*** up somewhere to then be able to do something that's right."

At the time of the Mars release, Gane outlined some of his musical preferences to Lorraine Ali of the Los Angeles Times. "I like music made for utilitarian reasons, like elevator music," he asserted. "You can take it out of its original purpose, then it's just strange and very avant-garde. It's like an odd little art world, but the people who made that music didn't think it was strange at the time." In Addicted to Noise, he argued that "People are ready to look for something else [besides] mainstream rock music, and trying to find something for themselves, taking a chance and finding things that aren't forced down your throat." Ali of the Los Angeles Times characterized the group's work as "easylistening music for a generation raised on [alternative noise-rockers] Sonic Youth." This proved accurate; Stereolab toured on the second stage of the traveling alternative music festival Lollapalooza. Yet such widespread exposure didn't prevent them from providing music for an art exhibit by a little-known sculptor, Charles Long.

Rather than exploit the kitsch value of "hi-fi" eccentrics like Esquivel, Denny, Les Baxter, and othersas a burgeoning circle of indie "lounge" bands had doneStereolab took their influences seriously. "There's supposedly a trashy quality to it," Sadier told Pulse!, "but to us it actually means a lot. We don't feel it's kitsch. Some of these records are actually really good, with good music and ideas. Things that take you somewhere. These records were looking into the future with enthusiasm and great hope, and we like to look at the future that way."

Meanwhile, over sonic collages inspired by such eclectic sources, Sadier wrote lyricsin French and Englishof social confusion and loss. She was nonetheless bemused that critics persisted in labeling her a Marxist. However, her questioning stance did suggest a politically subversive agenda. "I'm not coming up with answers," she claimed in Strobe, "but surely there are answers to our problems. After having asked all the right questions, you'll want to take action. It's up to us, there's no big written solution, there's no God, and no ideologies either. There's only ourselves that we can rely on."

Stereolab expanded its following considerably with its subsequent releases, especially the much-praised Emperor Tomato Ketchup. Newly inspired by European progressive rock and the avant-jazz of Sun Ra and Don Cherry, the group once again explored new sonic territory. "The new songs are similar to what we always do with repetition and minimalism," Gane told Newsday. "But this time I wanted them to be bouncy, more rubbery. I wanted to have more of a swing." Musician deemed Emperor "extraordinary," while England's Melody Maker called it "bloody essential." Entertainment Weekly proclaimed that "They may be influenced by obscure German groups, they may sing partially in French, but Stereolab's kitsch pop is enjoyable even without a foreign language degree."

Following the release of Emperor Tomato Ketchup, bassist Duncan Brown departed, and was replaced by Richard Harrison. He made his first full-length recording with the group, Dots and Loops, in 1997. The group's lineup was enhanced by guests Jan St. Werner, a member of the German techno band Mouse on Mars, and producer and musician John McEntire from the band Tortoise. In addition to the Moog and Farfisa keyboards usually associated with Stereolab, the group also introduced an EMS Vocoder into their instrumental lineup. "People usually use it for vocals or keyboards," Gane told Guitar Player, "But an EMS Vocoder is great with drums or drum machines and guitar or organ. What comes out is a strange amalgamation. It's like the film The Fly, when the guy goes through the transformation. When it comes out it's a perfect blend of fly and human." Gane and Sadier put the group on hiatus afterwards in order to spend time with their first child. In 1999, they enlisted producers John McIntire and Jim O'Rourke for Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night.

For the Record . . .

Members include Duncan Brown (group member, 1993-96), bass; Joe Dilworth (group member, 1991-92), drums; Tim Gane (born on July 12, 1964), guitar, keyboards; Katharine Gifford (group member, 1993-95), keyboards, vocals; Mary Hansen (joined group, 1992; died on December 9, 2002), guitar, keyboards, vocals; Richard Harrison (joined group, 1996), bass; Martin Kean (group member, 1991-93), bass; Morgan Lhote (joined group, c. 1995), organ; Sean O'Hagan (group member, 1993), keyboards, guitar; Andy Ramsay (joined group, c. 1992), drums, percussion, vocals; Laetitia Sadier (born on May 6, 1968), vocals, keyboards.

Group formed in London, England, c. 1991; released debut recordings on own label, Duophonic; released debut album Switched On Stereolab, on Too Pure label, 1992; signed to Elektra Records and released Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, 1993; provided music for exhibit by sculptor Charles Long, 1995; participated in Lollapalooza traveling music festival, 1995; released Emperor Tomato Ketchup, 1996; released Dots and Loops, 1997; released Sound Dust, 2001; released Margarine Eclipse, 2004.

Addresses: Record company Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Website Stereolab Official Website: http://www.stereolab.co.uk.

Stereolab activities in the first years of the 21st century included the release of Sound-Dust in 2001 and a collection of live BBC Radio performances, ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions in 2002. Following the release of the latter album, singer-guitarist Mary Hansen died in London, England, after being hit by a truck while riding her bike. She was 36. Stereolab soldiered on in her absence, however, and released the critically acclaimed Margarine Eclipse in early 2004. Entertainment Weekly critic Elisabeth Vincentelli proclaimed the album the group's best release since Emperor Tomato Ketchup: "Returning to its roots, the band strikes a graceful balance between rockers that charge forward with exhilarating abandon and pop tunes that float about with delightful melodic inventiveness. It's like greeting old friends who'd been held hostage by free-jazz playing aliens for seven years."

Selected discography

Switched On Stereolab, Too Pure, 1992.

Peng!, Too Pure, 1992.

The Groop Played Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, Too Pure, 1993.

Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, Elektra, 1993.

Mars Audiac Quintet, Elektra, 1994.

Refried Ectoplasm, Duophonic, 1995.

Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Elektra, 1996.

Dots and Loops, Drag City, 1997.

Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, Duophonic, 1999.

Sound-Dust, Elektra, 2001.

ABC Music: The BBC Radio 1 Sessions, Koch, 2002.

Margerine Eclipse, Elektra, 2004.

Sources

Periodicals

Addicted to Noise, June 1996.

College Music Journal (CMJ), April 1996.

Entertainment Weekly, January 23, 2004.

Grip, June 1996.

Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1994; April 24, 1996; April 27, 1996.

Melody Maker, March 16, 1996.

Musician, June 1996.

Newsday, May 20, 1996.

Option, July 1993.

Pitchfork, June 1996.

Progressive, July 1, 1996.

Pulse!, September 1994.

Spin, August 1996.

Strobe, September 1994.

Guitar Player, December 1997.

Online

"Stereolab," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (February 8, 2004).

"Stereolab," VH1, http://www.vh1.com/artists/az/stereolab/bio.jhtml (February 8, 2004).

Simon Glickman and Bruce Walker

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Stereolab

Stereolab

Pop band

A Bit of Spillage

Rode Elevator Music to Major Label

Lyrics Have Sociopolitical Content

Selected discography

Sources

Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier told Pulse!: Were a pop band in the sense that being pop is about knowing how to steal from the past and bring your own personality and ideas into it. Stereolab established itself as a cult favorite, partly because the band stole from an eclectic combination of largely ignored musical forms. But while other acts that share their passion for Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, easy listening, and other previously debased stylesmostly from the 1950s and 60sStereolab have refused to indulge in camp. Instead, they have taken the adventurous thread of such recordings and followed it into new sonic territory. Meanwhile, Sadiers lyrics have explored political and social issues with a surrealists sense of poetry. The whole effect is one of a shiny silver bubble, ventured Kathy Mancall in Addicted to Noise, an erotically charged Jetsonian 60s vision of the future.

The band began in 1988, when Sadier met British guitarist-songwriter Tim Gane in Paris. Gane, then a member of the moody pop band McCarthy, used some translated lyrics of Sadiers on his bands final album, and the two were both musically and romantically involved shortly thereafter. By 1991 they formed Stereolab, which took its name from a record company of the hi-fi era that specialized in recordings designed to exploit the sonic capabilities of stereo equipment. Gane and Sadier also created their own label, Duophonic. Fascinated by the inventive, atmospheric recordings of such composers as Juan Esquivel and Martin Denny, who fused exotic, symphonic, and avant-garde textures as well as such pop innovators as Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Stereolab began searching for new sounds.

A Bit of Spillage

The groups approach leaned heavily on out-of-date keyboards, especially old organs. Gane and company took the already spooky tone of such vintage gear and further modified it with other musical effects. That roughed-up organ, put through an amp and distortedI dont know why, but Im always attracted to that kind of sound, Gane told the Los Angeles Times. I dont like things too clean. I like a bit of spillage. Sadier noted to the newspapers Lorraine Ali that the ensemble didnt look for that particular sound, we kind of stumbled on it. We happened to find this Farfisa organ, a great big plastic thing from the 70s, in a thrift shop, she added. The sound of this organgenerally considered cheesy since its long-vanished heyday-appealed strongly to the Stereolab sensibility. This incredible, heavy, compressed and loaded sound was like a huge shaverWhaaah! Sadier elaborated. Thats just something you cant premeditate.

With a shifting crew of personnel that has included vocalist-guitarist Mary Hansen, bassist Duncan Brown, drummer Andy Ramsay, keyboardist-singer Katharine Gifford, multi-instrumentalist Sean OHagan, and a score of guest performers, Stereolab began constructing their idiosyncratic sound. Basically, Tim writes the music on a 4-track (tape machine) and gets a very thin, sort of skeleton of a song, Sadier noted of their approach in Grip. And I write some lyrics on top of that, and then we have the bones of the song. And then we either take time to practice it and then take to the studio, or we go straight to the studio and bring flesh to it there. Basically, when we record weve not really worn the songs in, its really the birth of them.

Rode Elevator Music to Major Label

After a couple of indie releases began to generate a cult following, Stereolab were signed to Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, stunned critics and suggested that the groups ambitions were expanding. Sadier recalled in Pulse! that the album was a nightmare to record-even talking about it brings a pain to my stomach. Yet by the time of 1994s follow-up, Mars Audiac Quintet, she added, Stereolab were much more in control. You always need to fup somewhere to then be able to do something thats right.

For the Record

Members include Tim Gane, guitar, keyboards; Laetitia Sadicr, vocals, keyboards; Duncan Brown (bandmember 1993-96), bass; Joe Dilworth (bandmember 1991-92), drums; Katharine Gifford (bandmember 1993-95), keyboards, vocals; Mary Hans-en (joined 1992), guitar, keyboards, vocals; Richard Harrison (joined 1996), bass; Martin Kean (band-member 1991-93), bass; Morgan Lhote (joined c. 1995), organ; Sean OHagan (bandmember 1993), keyboards, guitar; Andy Ramsay (joined c. 1992), drums, percussion, vocals.

Group formed c. 1991, in London, England. Released debut recordings on own label, Duophonic; released debut album, Switched On Stereolab, on Too Pure label, 1992; signed to Elektra Records and released Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, 1993; provided music for exhibit by sculptor Charles Long, 1995; participated in Lollapalooza traveling music festival, 1995.

Address: Record company Elektra Records, 75 Rock-efeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019; 345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Duophonic, P.O. Box 3787, London SE22 9DZ England.

At the time of the Mars release, Gane outlined some of his musical preferences to Lorraine Ali of the Los Angeles Times. I like music made for utilitarian reasons, like elevator music, he asserted. You can take it out of its original purpose, then its just strange and very avant-garde. Its like an odd little art world, but the people who made that music didnt think it was strange at the time. In Addicted to Noise, he argued that People are ready to look for something else [besides] mainstream rock music, and trying to find something for themselves, taking a chance and finding things that arent forced down your throat. Ali of the Los Angeles Times characterized the groups work as easy-listening music for a generation raised on [alternative noise-rockers] Sonic Youth. This proved accurate; Stereolab toured on the second stage of the traveling alternative music festival Lollapalooza. Yet such widespread exposure didnt prevent them from providing music for an art exhibit by a little-known sculptor, Charles Long.

Rather than exploit the kitsch value of hi-fi eccentrics like Esquivel, Denny, Les Baxter, and othersas a burgeoning circle of indie lounge bands had doneStereolab took their influences seriously. Theres supposedly a trashy quality to it, Sadier told Pulse!, but to us it actually means a lot. We dont feel its kitsch. Some of these records are actually really good, with good music and ideas. Things that take you somewhere. These records were looking into the future with enthusiasm and great hope, and we like to look at the future that way.

Lyrics Have Sociopolitical Content

Meanwhile, over sonic collages inspired by such eclectic sources, Sadier wrote lyricsin French and Englishof social confusion and loss. She was nonetheless bemused that critics persisted in labeling her a Marxist. However, her questioning stance did suggest a politically subversive agenda. I m not coming up with answers, she claimed in Strobe, but surely there are answers to our problems. After having asked all the right questions, youll want to take action. Its up to us, theres no big written solution, theres no God, and no ideologies either. Theres only ourselves that we can rely on.

Stereolab expanded its following considerably with its subsequent releases, especially the much-praised Emperor Tomato Ketchup. Newly inspired by European progressive rock and the avant-jazz of Sun Ra and Don Cherry, the group once again explored new sonic territory. The new songs are similar to what we always do with repetition and minimalism, Gane told News day. But this time I wanted them to be bouncy, more rubbery. I wanted to have more of a swing. Musician deemed Emperoextraordinary, while Englands Melody Maker called it bloody essential. Entertainment Weekly proclaimed that They may be influenced by obscure German groups, they may sing partially in French, but Stereolabs kitsch pop is enjoyable even without a foreign language degree.

Selected discography

Switched On Stereolab, Too Pure, 1992.

Peng!, Too Pure, 1992.

The Groop Played Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, Too Pure, 1993.

Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements, Elektra, 1993.

MarsAudiac Quintet, Elektra, 1994.

Refried Ectoplasm, Duophonic, 1995.

Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Elektra, 1996.

Sources

Addicted to Noise, June 1996.

College Music Journal (CMJ), April 1996.

Grip, June 1996.

Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1994; April 24, 1996; April 27, 1996.

Melody Maker, March 16, 1996.

Musician, June 1996.

Newsday, May 20, 1996.

Option, July 1993.

Pitchfork, June 1996.

Progressive, July 1, 1996.

Pulse!, September 1994.

Spin, August 1996.

Strobe, September 1994.

Simon Glickman

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Stereolab

STEREOLAB

Formed: 1991, South London, England

Members: Tim Gane, guitar, keyboards (born Barking, Essex, London, 12 July 1964); Simon Johns, bass; Laetitia (Seaya) Sadier, vocals, keyboards (born Paris, France, 6 May 1968); Andy Ramsay, drums, percussion, vocals. Former member: Mary Hansen, guitar, vocals (born Maryland, Queensborough, Australia, 1 November 1966; died London, England, 1 December 2002).

Genre: Electronica

Best-selling album since 1990: Dots and Loops (1997)

Hit songs since 1990: "Wow and Flutter," "Cybele's Reverie," "The Free Design"


Few bands manage to name themselves as fittingly as the British avant jazz-electronica-rock band Stereolab, which truly treats the process of making music as an experimental, carefully orchestrated process. Throughout the 1990s, the band released a handful of challenging art-rock albums that were critically appreciated. With cool, subdued vocals from French-born Laetitia Sadier, who alternates singing in French and English, they were the epitome of experimental, heavily produced, but always melodic electronic rock. Stereolab fuses the experimental and often futuristic looping and sampling that electronic music is known for with the improvisational tradition of jazz.

Stereolab formed in 1991 with primary songwriters Tim Gane on guitar and keyboards and girlfriend Sadier on vocals and keyboards. Their first two releases, Switched On (1992) and Peng! (1992), the latter of which was their official debut, earned them a devout following in the United Kingdom. Mary Hansen joined the band around this time as keyboardist as did Andy Ramsay, whose skillful, consistent drumming kept everything grounded. With the release of their first album together on a major label, Mars Audiac Quintet (1994), the first of many oddly titled albums, Stereolab emerged as an arty alternative rock band. At this point, Sean O'Hagan, who had been a full-time keyboardist with Stereolab, dropped down to part-time member to form his own group, the High Llamas. Stereolab has seen much ebb and flow in terms of personnel, but never to detrimental effects. Mars Audiac Quintet was well received and showed they were capable of writing a straightforward pop song. "Wow and Flutter" is driven by a catchy guitar riff and Sadier's cool singing of lines like "I thought IBM was born with the world / The U.S. flag would float forever." Other songs are far more esoteric and space age.

With their follow-up, Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996), Stereolab started to hit their stride producing melodically engaging songs that could veer from jazz to hip-hop to electronic dance beats and back again. O'Hagan dropped back in for string arrangements. Their music influenced other bands from England, including trip hop acts Morcheeba and Portishead, though Stereolab pioneered the sound and most other groups fed from their energy. On Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Sadier sings mostly in French. Standout tracks include the string-tinged "Cybele's Reverie"; "Percolator" is a notable and effective display of the band's shuffling around time signatures.

Themes of Stereolab songs in English are loosely concerned with politics, existentialism, and personal freedom. There is a sense that the meaning must get lost in translation, as with "Spark Plug" from Emperor Tomato Ketchup, which features the lines "There is no sense in being interested in a child a group or in a society / There is no sense if one cannot see in them before anything else." In 1997 Stereolab continued the momentum with Dots and Loops, which brings in vibraphone, the warmth and fuzzy sound of Fender Rhodes' piano, and the welcome increase of songs in English, as in the lead-off track "Brakhage." The trumpet section on the French-sung "Miss Modular" adds a 1960s, Burt Bacharach feel, but the foreign language lyrics keep things somewhat obscure and inaccessible. The songs on Dots and Loops abandon the stiff structure of pop music and instead, like jazz compositions, opt for four-, five-, or seventeen-minute-long sonic extravaganzas, as in "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse." Stereolab shifts around playfully with time signatures in "Rainbo Conversation" and "Flower Called Nowhere."

Through the late 1990s, starting with Dots and Loops, Stereolab continued to release albums that solidified their reputation as an intellectual, jazz/electronica rock group, prone to noodling on a particular riff for minutes on end. This is especially evident in their 1999 Cobra and Phases Play Voltage in the Milky Night and in the dark, impressionistic Sound-Dust (2001). Sadly, in December 2002, Stereolab lost one of their longtime members, Mary Hansen, when she was knocked off her bicycle in London and died shortly thereafter.

Stereolab has built a formidable reputation with a unique style that combines jazz, electronic, and pop in an avant-garde sensibility.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Mars Audiac Quintet (Elektra, 1994); Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Elektra, 1996); Dots and Loops (Elektra, 1997); Cobra and Phases Play Voltage in the Milky Night (Elektra, 1999); Sound-Dust (Elektra, 2001).

carrie havranek

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"Stereolab." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Stereolab." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved September 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/stereolab