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Stereolab - Fab Four Suture

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Artist: Stereolab

Album: Fab Four Suture

Label: Too Pure

Review date: Apr. 6, 2006

Are Stereolab pop music’s greatest formalists? Their early records, borne of cherry-picking fanaticism, treated neglected musics (Krautrock, French chanson, and early electronics) as malleable material to be shaped into kaleidoscopic pop. Stereolab’s referentiality offered an easy out to critics and lazy listeners, but as the group developed they syncretized their influences, their bricolage of culture leading them paradoxically to find their true selves. Such is the fluidity of Stereolab’s aesthetic trajectory that it’s hard to pinpoint the specific moments where things changed, but perhaps the major shift, inaugurated by extended pieces from the late 1990s like “Blue Milk” and “Refractions in the Plastic Pulse,” was the move from molar to molecular, the treatment of song as cellular.

Fab Four Suture, collecting a series of six 7” singles from 2005 and 2006, is an atomized record, much like their Switched On rarities compilation series or the recent Oscillons from the Anti-Sun singles and b-sides box. Their classic metronomic pulse is still evident in the glam stomp of “Kyberneticka Babicka” and the motorway heartbeat that ends “Excursions into ‘Oh, A-Oh’”; Stereolab are now confident enough to reference their own history. Some of these songs are fantastically, almost maddeningly tangential: “‘Get a Shot of the Refrigerator’” and “Widow Weirdo,” in particular, branch out in unpredictable directions. Yet everything immediately signifies Stereolab, largely because they have defined a musical lexicon that is constantly in process. There is a sense of travel about these new Stereolab songs, and a natural, unforced pleasure in research, snapping together the song’s constituent parts in non-rigidified ways. Fab Four Suture is a virtual treasure map, a plane of possibility.

By Jon Dale

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