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Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab playing a Moog synthesizer during a live performance
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Post-rock, indie rock, experimental rock, psychedelic rock, indie electronic[1]
Years active 1990–2009 (indefinite hiatus)
Labels Duophonic, Elektra, Too Pure, 4AD, Slumberland, Drag City
Associated acts McCarthy, Monade, Snowpony, High Llamas, Imitation Electric Piano, Atlas Sound
Members Tim Gane
Lætitia Sadier
Simon Johns
Joseph Watson
Julien Gasc
Past members Mary Hansen (deceased)
Andy Ramsay
Sean O'Hagan
Duncan Brown
Katharine Gifford
Morgane Lhote
Dominic Jeffery
Richard Harrison
Joe Dilworth
Martin Kean
Gina Morris

Stereolab are an alternative music band formed in 1990 in London, England. The band originally comprised songwriting team Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Lætitia Sadier (vocals/keyboards/guitar), both of whom remained at the helm across many lineup changes. Other long-time members include Mary Hansen (backing vocals/keyboards/guitar), who played with the group from 1992 until her accidental death in 2002, and Andy Ramsay (drums), who joined in 1993, and who is still in the official line-up.

Called "one of the most fiercely independent and original groups of the Nineties",[2] Stereolab were one of the first bands to be termed "post-rock". Their primary musical influence was 1970s krautrock, which they combined with lounge, 1960s pop, and experimental pop music. They were noted for their heavy use of vintage electronic keyboards, and their sound often overlays a repetitive "motorik" beat with female vocals sung in English or French. Stereolab often incorporates socio-political themes into their lyrics. Some critics[3] say the group's lyrics carry a strong Marxist message, and both Gane and Sadier admit to being influenced by the Surrealist and Situationist cultural and political movements. Gane is skeptical of labels such as "Marxist pop", and defends the band against accusations of "sloganeering".

Although many of the band's albums have been underground hits, they never found larger commercial success. The band were released from their recording contract with Warner Bros. Records when Warner's imprint Elektra Records folded. The release was reportedly due to poor record sales, and since then Stereolab's self-owned label, Duophonic Records, has signed a distribution deal with Too Pure. Duophonic holds the copyrights to the band's recordings, and on this label the band has released many limited-edition records. In 2009, Stereolab announced via their website that they were going on indefinite hiatus.


  • History 1
    • 1990–1993 1.1
    • 1994–2001 1.2
    • 2002–2008 1.3
    • 2009–present 1.4
  • Musical style 2
    • On stage 2.1
  • Lyrics and titles 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Selected discography 5
    • Studio albums 5.1
    • Compilations 5.2
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8



In 1985, Tim Gane formed McCarthy, a band from Essex, England known for their left-wing politics.[4] Gane met the French-born Lætitia Sadier[5] at a McCarthy concert in Paris and the two quickly fell in love. The musically-inclined Sadier was disillusioned with the rock scene in France and soon moved to London to be with Gane and pursue her career.[6] In 1990, after three albums, McCarthy broke up and Gane immediately formed Stereolab with Sadier (who had also contributed vocals to McCarthy's final album) and ex-Chills bassist Martin Kean.[7] The group's name was taken from a division of Vanguard Records demonstrating hi-fi effects.[2]

Gane and Sadier, along with future Stereolab manager Martin Pike, created a record label called Duophonic Super 45s which, along with later offshoot Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks, would become commonly known as "Duophonic".[8] The 10 inch vinyl EP Super 45 was the first release for both band and label, and was sold through mail order and the Rough Trade Shop in London. Super 45's band-designed album art and packaging was the first of many customized and limited-edition Duophonic records. In a 1996 interview in The Wire Gane calls the "do-it-yourself" aesthetic behind Duophonic "empowering", and says that by releasing one's own music "you learn; it creates more music, more ideas".[9] Other independent bands such as Tortoise, Broadcast, and Labradford would also release material on Duophonic.

Stereolab followed up with another EP, Super-Electric, and a single, "Stunning Debut Album" (which was neither debut nor album). The band's early material was rock and guitar-oriented; of Super-Electric, Jason Ankeny wrote in Allmusic that "Droning guitars, skeletal rhythms, and pop hooks—not vintage synths and pointillist melodies—were their calling cards ..."[10] In 1992, Stereolab's first full-length album, Peng!, and first compilation, Switched On, were released on independent label Too Pure. Around this time, the lineup consisted of Gane and Sadier plus vocalist Mary Hansen, drummer Andy Ramsay, bassist Duncan Brown, keyboardist Katharine Gifford, and guitarist Sean O'Hagan of the 1980s famed Microdisney duo. Hansen, an Australian, had been in touch with Gane since his McCarthy days. After joining, she and Sadier developed a style of vocal counterpoint that distinguished Stereolab's sound until Hansen's death ten years later in 2002. O'Hagan would later leave to form The High Llamas, but would frequently return to contribute to Stereolab's records.[11]

Sample of "Jenny Ondioline", from Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements (1993). One reviewer called it "the most ambitious—and definitive—moment of Stereolab's early years".[12]

Problems playing this file? See .

Beginning with their 1993 EP [14] In the U.K. it was released on Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks, which is responsible for domestic releases of Stereolab's major albums.[8] The year would also see a collaboration with industrial stalwarts Nurse With Wound, in the form of the Crumb Duck EP.


On 8 January 1994, Stereolab achieved their first chart entry when 1993 EP Jenny Ondioline entered at number 75 on the UK Singles Chart. (Over the next three years, four more releases by the band would appear on this chart, ending with the EP Miss Modular in 1997.) With their 1994 album, Mars Audiac Quintet, Stereolab focused more on pop and less on rock, resulting in what Allmusic described as "what may be the group's most accessible, tightly-written album".[15] Mars Audiac Quintet makes heavy use of vintage electronic instruments, and also contains the single "Ping Pong", which gained press coverage for its allegedly explicitly Marxist lyrics.[16] After releasing a 1995 collection of singles and B-sides called Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2, Stereolab followed with an EP titled Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center. This EP was their musical contribution to an interactive art exhibit put on in collaboration with New York City artist Charles Long.[17]

Stereolab's 1996 album,

External links

  • "Discography (Stereolab)".  
  • "Discography". Stereolab Official Site. Stereolab. Retrieved 3 May 2007. 
  • "Discography". Duophonic Super 45s Home Page.  
  • "Albums and Singles". Nurse With Wound Official Site. Brainwashed Inc. Archived from the original on 6 March 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2007. 
Chart data
  • "Charts & Awards (Stereolab)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 10 June 2007. 
  • "Stereolab". UK Chart Data. Retrieved 10 June 2007. 
Articles and reviews
  • Ankeny, Jason. "Review (Super-Electric)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 30 May 2007. 
  • Arundel, Jim (26 October 1991). "Stereolab".  
  • Bream, Jon (9 May 1996). "French-British band Stereolab brings its diverse influences to First Avenue".  
  • Considine, J. D. (12 December 1997). "Music so retro it's cutting edge".  
  • Cooper, Neil (23 May 1999). "Hold the front page ... Stereolab have learned a second chord".  
  • Davet, Stephane (6 April 1996). "Stereolab—Emperor Tomato Ketchup".  
  • DeRogatis, Jim (14 October 1993). "Great Chemistry // Stereolab Concocts a Unique Mix of Sounds".  
  • DeRogatis, Jim (7 August 1994). "Stereolab Stands Alone With Hypnotic Drone". The Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times News Group). 
  • DeRogatis, Jim (5 October 2003). "Stereolab, "Instant O in the Universe" (Elektra)". The Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times News Group). 
  • Eliscu, Jenny (3 June 2004). "Warner to Ax Eighty Artists".  
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review (Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 27 May 2007. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review (Sound-Dust)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review (Emperor Tomato Ketchup)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  • Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review (Wowee Zowee)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 26 May 2007. 
  • Fritch, Matthew (November–December 2004). "Stereolab".  
  • Gilbey, Ryan (10 October 1997). "Pop: Live – Too hip for berks".  
  • Grunebaum, Dan. "In Person: Don't call us retro".  
  • Harrington, Jim (1 April 2004). "Stereolab won't let Hansen be forgotten".  
  • H2O. "Tim Gane (Duophonic/UHF Disks)".  
  • Hodgkinson, Will (21 July 2001). "Home entertainment—Stereolab".  
  • Hoskyns, Barry (May 1996). "The High Llamas: Hawaii; Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup".  
  • Hoskyns, Barry (October 1997). "Stereolab: Dots and Loops". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (12 November 1993). "Acting on Pulse: Shimmery Stereolab".  
  • Jenkins, Mark (28 May 1996). "Stereolab (Concert Review)". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (18 September 1998). "Snowpony". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (5 November 1999). "Stereolab's Latest Experiment". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (13 November 1999). "Stereolab's Velvet Fog". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (25 April 2003). "The Sea And Cake: One Bed ...". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Jenkins, Mark (20 May 2005). "Monade: A Few Steps More ...". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Klein, Joshua (29 August 2001). "What the Bleep? Stereolab Does Some Actual Tunes". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Laban, Linda (9 April 2004). "'"Stereolab changes with 'Eclipse.  
  • Lewis, Angela (19 April 1996). "Angela Lewis on pop". The Independent (The Independent). 
  • Mason, Stewart. "Review (ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  • Mason, Stewart. "Review (Miss Modular)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 30 May 2007. 
  • Mason, Stewart. "Song Review (Ping Pong)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 25 May 2007. 
  • McNair, James. "Rock & pop: Total eclipse of the heart". The Independent (The Independent). Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2004. 
  • Moon, Tom (20 April 2004). "Latest album from Stereolab continues high-tech tradition".  
  • Morris, Chris (17 August 1997). "Hold The Ketchup On That Stereolab". Yahoo! Music (Yahoo! Inc.). 
  • Musgrove, Mike (21 June 2000). "At the 9:30, Sound and Fury". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). 
  • Peronne, Pierre (13 December 2002). "Obituary: Mary Hansen". The Independent (The Independent). 
  • Phares, Heather. "Biography (Monade)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  • Phares, Heather. "Review (Fab Four Suture)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 25 May 2007. 
  • Phares, Heather. "Review (Margerine Eclipse)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 3 June 2007. 
  • Phares, Heather. "Review (Mars Audiac Quintet)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  • Phares, Heather. "Review (Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 31 May 2007. 
  • Reynolds, Simon (1 May 1995). "Plasticine and Heard. (Interactive Exhibit)".  
  • Reynolds, Simon (4 April 1996). "Stereolab: Simple Minds". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). 
  • Saraceno, Christina (11 December 2002). "Stereolab Member Dead". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). 
  • Sanneh, Kelefa (5 February 2004). "Margerine Eclipse". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). 
  • Shea, Stuart (2002). Rock & Roll's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lame Lyrics, Egregious Egos, and Other Oddities. Potomac Books.  
  • Simpson, Dave (10 December 2001). "Stereolab (Manchester University)".  
  • Stanley, Bob (17 October 2003). "Stereolab—starting at zero". Times Online (Times Newspapers Ltd). 
  • Stark, Jeff (22 September 1999). "Surrealist manifesto".  
  • Stevens, Andrew (2003). "Stereolab—Radio 1 Sessions".  
  • Sutton, Michael. "Biography (McCarthy)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 30 May 2007. 
  • Taylor, Timothy (2001). Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture (1st ed.). Routledge.  
  • Unterberger, Richie. "Biography (The High Llamas)". Allmusic. All Media Guide, LLC. Retrieved 26 May 2007. 
  • Wagner, Lori (13 February 2004). "Music Reviews: A little old, a little new from Stereolab. (Daily Break)".  
  • Walters, Barry (20 August 2001). "Sound-Dust". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). 
  • Woodcraft, Molloy (1 February 2004). "Stereolab: Margerine Eclipse".  


  1. ^ "Stereolab | Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d Perrone (2002)
  3. ^ a b c d Reynolds (1996)
  4. ^ Sutton (AMG: McCarthy)
  5. ^ She is sometimes known as "Seaya Sadier"; see Arundel (1991).
  6. ^ a b Arundel (1991)
  7. ^ Erlewine (AMG: Stereolab); Sutton (AMG: McCarthy)
  8. ^ a b c H2O (Chunklet: Tim Gane)
  9. ^ a b c d Shapiro (1996)
  10. ^ Ankeny (AMG: Super Electric)
  11. ^ DeRogatis (1993); Erlewine (AMG: Stereolab); Perrone (2002)
  12. ^ Phares (AMG: Transient Random-Noise ...)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i Erlewine (AMG: Stereolab)
  14. ^ Jenkins (1993)
  15. ^ Phares (AMG: Mars Audiac Quintet)
  16. ^ DeRogatis (1994); Mason (AMG: Ping Pong); Reynolds (1996)
  17. ^ a b Reynolds (1995)
  18. ^ Klein (2001); Moon (2004)
  19. ^ Erlewine (AMG: Emperor Tomato Ketchup)
  20. ^ Davet (1996)
  21. ^ a b c d e f Klein (2001)
  22. ^ Red Hot + Rio - Various Artists | AllMusic
  23. ^ Hoskyns (1997)
  24. ^ "Review (Dots and Loops)".  
  25. ^ Erlewine (AMG: Cobra and Phases Group ...); Hoskyns (1999)
  26. ^ "Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 11 June 2007. 
  27. ^ a b c Jenkins (5 November 1999)
  28. ^ Klein (2001); Walters (2001)
  29. ^ a b c McNair (2004)
  30. ^ McNair (2004); Saraceno (2002)
  31. ^ Laban (2004)
  32. ^ DeRogatis (2003); Harrington (2004); Wagner (2004)
  33. ^ DeRogatis (2003)
  34. ^ Fritch (2004); Phares (AMG: Monade)
  35. ^ Phares (AMG: Margerine Eclipse)
  36. ^ "Margerine Eclipse". CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 6 June 2007. 
  37. ^ Woodcraft (2004)
  38. ^ Sanneh (2004)
  39. ^ a b Eliscu (2004)
  40. ^ a b "Monade". Official Website. Beggars Group, USA. Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2007. 
  41. ^ Phares (AMG: Monade)
  42. ^ Jenkins (2006)
  43. ^ "Official Stereolab MySpace Page". MySpace Music. Retrieved 2 June 2007. 
  44. ^ Pitchfork: Stereolab Go on Hiatus 2 April 2009
  45. ^ Pitchfork - Stereolab - Not Music
  46. ^ Klein (2001); Shapiro (1996)
  47. ^ DeRogatis (1994); Shapiro (1996)
  48. ^ Taylor (2001), p.110
  49. ^ Jenkins (5 November 1999); McNair (2004)
  50. ^ DeRogatis (2003); Wagner (2004)
  51. ^ Harrington (2004)
  52. ^ a b c d e Stark (1999)
  53. ^ Hoskyns (1999)
  54. ^ Fritch (2004)
  55. ^ Jenkins (1996)
  56. ^ Jenkins (13 November 1999)
  57. ^ Bream (1996)
  58. ^ Harrington (2004); Musgrove (2000)
  59. ^ Reynolds (1996); Stanley (2003)
  60. ^ Mason (AMG: Miss Modular)
  61. ^ a b Mason (AMG: Ping Pong); Reynolds (1996)
  62. ^ Fritch (2004); Jenkins (1999); Reynolds (1996); Shapiro (1996)
  63. ^ Vanguard Online Interview
  64. ^ Reviler Interview
  65. ^ Morris (1997)
  66. ^ Jenkins (1998)
  67. ^ Lewis (1996)
  68. ^ Hoskyns (1996)
  69. ^ Simpson (2001)
  70. ^ Shea (2002), pp.53,54
  71. ^ Jenkins (2003)
  72. ^ Considine (1997)
  73. ^ See:
    • Erlewine (AMG: Wowee Zowee)
    • "Discography (French Disko)". Stereolab Official Site. Stereolab. Retrieved 26 May 2007. 
  74. ^ Jenkins (1998); Unterberger (The High Llamas)
  75. ^ Jenkins (2005)
  76. ^ Eliscu (2004), Stevens (2003)
  77. ^ See:
    • Stevens (2003)
    • "Discography (Jenny Ondioline)". Stereolab Official Site. Stereolab. Retrieved 26 May 2007. 
  78. ^ Adams, Gregory (September 7, 2012). "Flowers Of Hell Reveal Odes Details".  
  79. ^ Phares (AMG: Fab Four Suture)



Studio albums

Stereolab released dozens of studio albums, EPs, and singles over the years. They made it a practice to make almost all of their more obscure material widely available through compilations.[79]

Selected discography

Artists covering Stereolab's songs have included Iron & Wine ("Peng! 33"), Editors ("French Disko"), The Raveonettes ("French Disko"), and The Flowers of Hell ("Super-Electric")[78]

Despite earning critical acclaim and a sizable fanbase, commercial success eluded the group.[76] Early in their career, their 1993 EP Jenny Ondioline entered the UK Singles Chart, but financial issues prevented the band from printing enough records to satisfy demand.[77] When Elektra Records was closed down by Warner Bros. Records in 2004, Stereolab was dropped along with many other artists, reportedly because of poor sales.[39] Since then, Stereolab's self-owned label Duophonic has inked a worldwide distribution deal with independent label Too Pure.[40] Through Duophonic the band both licenses their music and releases it directly (depending on geographic market). According to Tim Gane, "... we license our recordings and just give them to people, then we don't have to ask for permission if we want to use it. We just want to be in control of our own music."[8]

Stylistically, music journalist J. D. Considine credits the band for anticipating and driving the late 1990s revival of vintage analog instruments among indie rock bands.[72] Indie rock band Pavement (who also toured with Stereolab) acknowledged the group's sound on their song "Half A Canyon."[73] Stereolab alumni have also founded bands of their own. Guitarist Sean O'Hagan went on to form the The High Llamas, while keyboardist Katharine Gifford created Snowpony with a former member of My Bloody Valentine.[74] Sadier herself has released three albums with her four-piece side-project Monade, whose sound Mark Jenkins called a "little more Parisian" than Stereolab's.[75]

A variety of artists, musical and otherwise, have collaborated with Stereolab. In 1995 the group teamed up with sculptor Charles Long for an interactive art show in New York City, for which Long provided the exhibits and Stereolab the music.[17] They have released tracks by and toured with post-rock band Tortoise, while John McEntire of Tortoise has in turn worked on several Stereolab albums.[71] In the 1990s Stereolab and veteran industrial band Nurse With Wound released two limited-edition records together; both contained Nurse With Wound remixes of original tracks provided by Stereolab.

Stereolab have been called "one of the most influential alternative bands of the '90s",[13] and one of "the decade's most innovative British bands."[66] Simon Reynolds commented in Rolling Stone that the group's earlier records form "an endlessly seductive body of work that sounds always the same, always different."[3] In The Wire, Peter Shapiro compared the band favorably to Britpop bands Oasis and Blur, and defended their music against the charge that it is "nothing but the sum total of its arcane reference points."[9] Stereolab were one of the first groups to be called post-rock—in a 1996 article, journalist Angela Lewis applied the "new term" to Stereolab and three other bands who have connections to the group.[67] The band's 1996 album Emperor Tomato Ketchup, their "high-water mark" according to critic Joshua Klein,[21] was a critical success and underground hit.[13] Stereolab have also received negative press. Barney Hoskyns questioned the longevity of their music in a 1996 Mojo review, saying that their records "sound more like arid experiments than music born of emotional need."[68] In The Guardian, Dave Simpson stated: "With their borrowings from early, obscure Kraftwerk and hip obtuse sources, [Stereolab] sound like a band of rock critics rather than musicians."[69] Lætitia Sadier's vocals were cited by author Stuart Shea as often being "indecipherable."[70]


Stereolab's album and song titles occasionally reference CoBrA" and "Phases Group".[52] The title of the first song on Dots and Loops, "Brakhage", is a nod to experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage.[52] Other examples are the 1992 compilation Switched On, named after a 1969 Wendy Carlos album, and the 1992 single "John Cage Bubblegum", named after experimental composer John Cage.[65]

Band members have resisted attempts to link the group and its music to Marxism. In a 1999 interview, Gane stated that "none of us are Marxists ... I've never even read Marx." Although Gane admitted that his partner's lyrics touch on political topics, he argued that they do not cross the line into "sloganeering".[27] Sadier herself has mentioned that she has read very little Marx.[52] In contrast, Cornelius Castoriadis, a radical political philosopher but strong critic of Marxism, has been mentioned as a marking influence in her thinking.[63][64] Her side project's name (Monade) and its first album's title (Socialisme ou Barbarie) are also references to the work of Castoriadis.

It's alright 'cause the historical pattern has shown,
How the economical cycle tends to revolve,
In a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop,
A slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more.

Critics have seen Marxist allusions in the band's lyrics, and several have gone so far as to call the band members themselves Marxist.[62] "Ping Pong", a single included on Mars Audiac Quintet (1994), has been put forward as evidence. In the song, Sadier sings "about capitalism's cruel cycles of slump and recovery" with lyrics that constitute "a plainspoken explanation of one of the central tenets of Marxian economic analysis" (said critics Simon Reynolds and Stewart Mason, respectively).[61] The song opens with the lines:

Sample of "Ping Pong", from Mars Audiac Quintet (1994). Reviewers have seen Marxist themes in the lyrics of this song.[61]

Problems playing this file? See .

Stereolab's music is politically and philosophically charged. Lætitia Sadier, who writes the group's lyrics, has reportedly been inspired by her anger at the Iraq War.[59] The Surrealist and Situationist cultural and political movements were also influences, as noted by Sadier and Gane in a 1999 interview.[52] Stewart Mason commented in an Allmusic review that the lyrics from the 1997 song "Miss Modular" "sound influenced by the Situationist theory of the 'spectacle'."[60] When asked to explain her intentions in a 1991 Melody Maker interview, Sadier responded that "Basically I want to change the world. I want to make people think about how they live every day, shake them a bit."[6]

Lyrics and titles

Stereolab toured regularly to support their album releases. In a 1996 The Washington Post gig review, Mark Jenkins wrote that Stereolab started out favoring an "easy-listening syncopation", but eventually reverted to a "messier, more urgent sound" characteristic of their earlier performances.[55] In another review Jenkins said that the band's live songs "frequently veer[ed] into more cacophonous, guitar-dominated territory", in contrast to lighter albums like Cobra and Phases Group ....[56] In the Minneapolis Star Tribune Jon Bream compared the band's live sound to feedback-driven rock bands like The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine.[57] Several critics have said that Stereolab lacked stage presence, arguing that Sadier's vocal delivery was too subdued and that the band tended to play instead of perform its music.[58] Regarding being onstage, Gane has said that "I don't like to be the center of attention ... I just get into the music and am not really aware of the people there. That's my way of getting through it."[27]

On stage

In interviews, Gane and Sadier have discussed their musical philosophy. According to Gane "to be unique was more important than to be good."[52] On the subject of being too obscure, he said in a 1996 interview that "maybe the area where we're on dodgy ground, is this idea that you need great knowledge [of] esoteric music to understand what we're doing." Sadier responded to Gane, saying that she "think[s] we have achieved a music that will make sense to a lot of people whether they know about Steve Reich or not."[9] The duo were up-front about their desire to grow the group's sound: for Gane, "otherwise it just sounds like what other people are doing,"[53] and for Sadier, "you trust that there is more and that it can be done more interesting."[54]

Lætitia Sadier's French and English vocals have been a part of Stereolab's sound since the beginning.[13] She writes the group's lyrics, which tend to lean towards Marxist social commentary rather than "affairs of the heart" (in the opinion of music journalist Simon Reynolds).[3] In reference to Sadier's laid-back delivery, Peter Shapiro wrote in The Wire that she has all the "emotional histrionics" of 1960s German singer Nico.[9] Sometimes Sadier will just sing wordlessly along with the music.[21] Before Mary Hansen's death in 2002, she and Sadier would often trade vocals back-and-forth in a singsong manner that has been described as "eerie" and "hypnotic".[2] Critic Jim Harrington commented that Hansen's absence is noticeable on live performances of Stereolab's older tracks, and that their newer songs could have benefited from her backing vocals.[51]

The band make use of vintage analog electronic instruments such as the Moog synthesizer, which was featured prominently on 1994's Mars Audiac Quintet.[47] Gane has praised these older instruments for their superior controllability: "We use the older effects because they're more direct, more extreme, and they're more like plasticine: you can shape them into loads of things."[48] Funk, jazz, and Brazilian music were inspirations,[49] and the sounds of minimalist composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich can be found on 1999's Cobra and Phases Group ....[21] Several critics have commented that the band's later work, like Instant 0 in the Universe (2003) and Margerine Eclipse (2004), sound similar to their guitar-driven earlier style.[50]

Picture of a 1970s-era Minimoog analog electronic synthesizer. Stereolab often utilise vintage Moog synthesizers.

Stereolab's music combines a droning rock sound with lounge instrumentals, overlaid with sing-song female vocals and pop melodies. Their records are heavily influenced by the "motorik" technique of 1970s krautrock groups such as Neu! and Faust.[46] Tim Gane has supported the comparison: "Neu! did minimalism and drones, but in a very pop way."[3] Stereolab's style also incorporates easy-listening music of the 1950s and '60s. Said Joshua Klein in The Washington Post, "Years before everyone else caught on, Stereolab was referencing the 1970s German bands Can and Neu!, the Mexican lounge music master Esquivel and the decidedly unhip Burt Bacharach."[21]

Musical style

At a performance on 21 June 2013 at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival held at Pontins in Camber Sands, Cavern Of Anti-Matter (a trio featuring former Stereolab members Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth) were joined onstage by Lætitia Sadier for a performance of "Blue Milk" (from Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night), thus effecting a partial Stereolab reunion. The song is mentioned repeatedly in the festival programme as being highly influential on the work of festival curators Deerhunter, and band member Bradford Cox also joined the group onstage for this performance.

In November 2010, the band released Not Music, a collection of unreleased material recorded at the same time as Chemical Chords.[45]

They toured Australia in February 2009 as part of the St Jerome's Laneway Festival. In April the same year, manager Martin Pike announced a pause in the band's career together for the time being. After 19 years, he said that they felt it was time to take a rest and move on to new projects.[44]


Margerine Eclipse was followed by Oscillons from the Anti-Sun; a 2005 three-CD and one-DVD retrospective of the group's rarer material. Monade's second album, A Few Steps More, also appeared that year.[41] In 2005 and 2006, Stereolab released six limited-edition singles which were later released as a collection in Fab Four Suture, and contained material which Mark Jenkins thought continued the brisker sound of the band's post-Hansen work.[42] Serene Velocity, a "best-of" compilation focusing on the band's Elektra years, was released in late 2006. By June 2007, Stereolab's lineup comprised Tim Gane, Lætitia Sadier, Andy Ramsay, Simon Johns, Dominic Jeffrey, Joseph Watson, and Joseph Walters. The band had finished the production of their next album, entitled Chemical Chords, which was released in August 2008 on the 4AD label. The release of the album was followed by an autumn tour of Europe and the United States.[43]

The album Margerine Eclipse followed in 2004 with generally positive reviews, and peaked at number 174 on the US Billboard 200.[36] The track "Feel and Triple" was written in tribute to Hansen; according to Sadier "I was reflecting on my years with her ... reflecting on how we sometimes found it hard to express the love we had for one another."[29] The Observer's Molloy Woodcraft awarded the album four out of five stars, and described Sadier's vocal performance as "life- and love-affirming", and the record as a whole as "Complex and catchy, bold and beatific."[37] Kelefa Sanneh argued in Rolling Stone that Margerine Eclipse was "full of familiar noises and aimless melodies".[38] Margerine Eclipse was Stereolab's last record to be released on American label Elektra Records, which shut down that same year.[39] Future material would be released on Too Pure, the same label which had released some of the band's earliest material.[40]

Sample of "Margerine Rock", taken from Margerine Eclipse (2004). This song "restore[s] some of the effortless fun that informed all of Stereolab's work before Dots and Loops", said one critic.[35]

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The 2003 EP Instant 0 in the Universe was recorded in France, and was Stereolab's first release following Hansen's death. According to music journalist Jim DeRogatis, the EP marked a return to their earlier, harder sound—"free from the pseudo-funk moves and avant-garde tinkering that had been inspired by Chicago producer Jim O'Rourke".[33] That year, Sadier's side-project, Monade, released its debut album Socialisme Ou Barbarie: The Bedroom Recordings. Both the name of the group and the title of the album are references to the work of Greek-French intellectual Cornelius Castoriadis.[34]

On the ninth of December, longstanding band member Mary Hansen was killed when hit by a truck while riding her bicycle.[30] Born in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, Hansen earned the most attention for her vocal work with Stereolab, although she also played the guitar and keyboards. The music journalist Pierre Perrone said that Hansen's "playful nature and mischievous sense of humour came through in the way she approached the backing vocals she contributed to Stereolab and the distinctive harmonies she created with Sadier."[2] For the next few months, Stereolab lay dormant as the members grieved. They eventually decided to continue; as Sadier explained in a 2004 interview: "Losing Mary is still incredibly painful ... But it's also an opportunity to transform and move on. It's a new version. We've always had new versions, people coming in and out. That's life."[31] (Future album and concert reviews would mention the effects of Hansen's absence.)[32] In a 2004 interview, Sadier said that "Our dedication to her on the album [2004's Margerine Eclipse] says, 'We will love you till the end', meaning of our lives. I'm not religious, but I feel Mary's energy is still around somewhere. It didn't just disappear."[29]

In 2002, as they were planning their next album, the band started building a studio north of Bordeaux, France. October saw the release of ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions; a compilation of BBC Radio 1 sessions. That year also marked an end to Gane and Sadier's romantic relationship.[29] As the year was coming to a close, tragedy struck.


The album Sound-Dust followed in 2001, and rose to number 178 on the Billboard 200. Again featuring producers McEntire and O'Rourke, it was more warmly received than Cobra and Phases Group ....[28] Critic Joshua Klein said that "the emphasis this time sounds less on unfocused experimentation and more on melody ... a breezy and welcome return to form for the British band." Klein also commented that "never has it been harder to discern just what [Sadier] is singing, but rarely has her gibberish sounded so pleasant."[21]

The band took a break from touring while Gane and Sadier had a child.[13] In 1999, Stereolab's next album appeared, titled Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night. Co-produced by McEntire and American producer Jim O'Rourke, the album earned mixed reviews for its lighter sound, and peaked at number 154 on the Billboard 200.[25] An unsigned NME review said that "this record has far more in common with bad jazz and progressive rock than any experimental art-rock tradition."[26] In a 1999 The Washington Post article, Mark Jenkins asked Gane about the album's apparent lack of guitars; Gane responded, "There's a lot less upfront, distorted guitar ... But it's still quite guitar-based music. Every single track has a guitar on it."[27] Stereolab added a new bassist, Simon Johns, for the Cobra and Phases Group ... tour.[13]

Dots and Loops was released in 1997, and was Stereolab's first album to enter the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at number 111. Barney Hoskyns wrote in Rolling Stone that with it the group moved "ever further away from the one-chord Velvets drone-mesh of its early days" toward easy listening and Europop.[23] A review in German newspaper Die Zeit echoed this observation, claiming that in Dots and Loops Stereolab transformed the harder Velvet Underground-like riffs of previous releases into "softer sounds and noisy playfulness".[24] Contributors to the album once again included John McEntire, along with Sean O'Hagan of The High Llamas and Jan St. Werner of German electropop duo Mouse on Mars.[13] A second Nurse With Wound collaboration, Simple Headphone Mind, appeared in 1997, and the third installment of the "Switched On" series, Aluminum Tunes, followed in 1998. In 1998, Stereolab collaborated with French avant-garde singer and poet Brigitte Fontaine in single "Calimero".

[22]Also in 1996, Stereolab collaborated with
Sample of "Captain Easychord", from Sound-Dust (2001). Parts of this track use country-western techniques.[21]

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Sample of "Motoroller Scalatron", from Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996). This clip illustrates the vocal interplay between Lætitia Sadier and Mary Hansen.

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