Stereolab, Fab Four Suture

Nitsuh Abebe

By Nitsuh Abebe

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Fab Four Suture


After a decade of stylistic shifts, Stereolab have simmered down to a signature sound. Since the turn of the millennium, they've dropped the moony dreams of earlier days and dug into a more concrete swing, equal parts sunshine pop and jazz fusion, Krautrock and Tropicalia. It turns out both funky and exotic &#8212 in the abstract, which is one of the band's favorite places &#8212 and if they're Stereolab by numbers, just be happy about how many numbers they have to choose from.

Familiarity breeds contentment

They've always relied on their endless left-field influences and record-collector aesthetics, and Fab Four Suture uses them the same way its predecessors did &#8212 primarily to liven things up by constantly reconfiguring the exact proportions in a familiar recipe. Opening and closing numbers (parts one and two of "Kyberneticka Babicka") pair up minimalist song design with easy-listening harmony, and wind up sounding like the band's old Turn On side project; "Excursions into Oh A-Oh" just pairs up their (old) First of the Microbe Hunters-era funk with their (older) Noise Burst organ drone. It all sounds right &#8212 skilled, professional, intricate, and rewarding. But that workmanlike quality is becoming the bigger challenge: Stereolab can run laps around its sounds, but the mood hasn't changed much lately, as if they're saying the same things with new chords. Lucky for them that standard-issue Stereolab moods aren't much less enticing now than they were eight years back.