Stereolab Fab Four Suture

[Too Pure; 2006]

Styles: post-rock, indie rock, drone pop
Others: Komeda, The High Llamas, Broadcast, Electrelane

Stereolab is a music collector's dream band. They drop EPs, art installation soundtracks, limited edition singles, and many other scraps of ephemera almost as frequently as Randy Jackson refers to fellow humans as a "dawgs." Hyperbole aside, the groop is obviously committed to putting their product out in various fun forms for fetishists to build musical altars. Kudos to them.

While I'm not quite a committed collector, the 'lab also thinks of us little guys with smaller wallets and less available storage space by releasing nice compilations of their rarer releases. This is what their new album Fab Four Suture is. In September 2005, three singles were released, introducing a total of six new songs to the whirled of Stereolabbers. On this LP, we not only get those six nuggets, but added to the lode are six additional gems of exceptional beauty. Yet far from seeming like a cobbled-together affair, this release rivals Margerine Eclipse as their best "album" album since 1997's Dots and Loops.

"Kyberneticka Babicka," split into two parts, opens and closes the album as a gorgeously hypnotic pop meditation. It's something akin to finding the most perfectly realized scratch-induced record skip in the universe, and although there's practically nine minutes of it on the album, I have repeatedly listened to those minutes more than anything else in the collection. Aside from this more experimental nod, the rest of the album is a tour de force, with the band flexing their well developed sonic muscles. Laetitia Sadier's magically delicious vocal cords gently caress ear drums. Tim Gane's insistent guitar work spins dream-induced rapture. And of course, Andy Ramsay's versatile beat-making is in full form, especially in "'Get a Shot of the Refrigerator,'" where he goes from motorik drive to bad-ass hip-hop groove on a dime, making it seem like it's the most natural transition in all the world. These are talented writers/performers at the absolute top of their game. Just as relevant now as they ever were.

Without doubt, pre-disposed fans will love this. But you non-fans, hear this: Okay, Stereolab are an "acquired taste," in the parlance of our times. Sure, the often labyrinthine melodies may be a bit too intricate for many casual pop fans. Sure, the practice of locking into a trance-inducing groove may be a bit too patience-demanding for those of short attention spans. But if you give this album the chance - letting down your guard - the rewards are embarrassingly rich. This is more than pop. More than rock. More than any single genre can contain. It's a celebration of the beauty of music, and thus, a rare thing indeed.

1. Kyberneticka Babicka Part 1
2. Interlock
3. Eye Of The Volcano
4. Plastic Mile
5. "Get A Shot Of The Refrigerator"
6. Visionary Road Maps
7. Vodiak
8. Whisper Pitch
9. Excursions Into 'Oh, A-Oh'
10. I Was A Sunny Rainphase
11. Window Weirdo
12. Kyberneticka Babicka Part 2