Some of the best music ever made feels like it comes from no particular era or place.
Between 1990 and 2009, Stereolab was the premiere purveyor of a timeless, foreign type of “space age bachelor pad music.”
Stereolab will bring its reunion tour to the Lowbrow Palace on Monday, Sept. 16.
Known for its eclectic style, radical politics, retro aesthetic and international appeal, Stereolab’s visit to the borderland is an unexpected and welcome surprise.
Here’s everything you need to know about Stereolab ahead of its upcoming concert:
Tim, Lætitia and Mary.
Stereolab was born when English guitarist Tim Gane met and fell in love with French singer/multi-instrumentalist Lætitia Sadier. He proceeded to make music and start a record label after the breakup of his previous band in 1990.
Adding guitarist/singer Mary Hansen in 1992, the band’s core trio became Stereolab’s constant artistic forces until Hansen’s tragic death in a cycling accident in 2002.
Radically eclectic sound
Stereolab’s music is self-described as “space-age bachelor pad music,” which is as good a label as any to describe the band’s radically eclectic sound. Aside from backgrounds in English and French music, Stereolab draws influence extensively from jazz, Brazillian bossa nova, German krautrock, minimalist composers such as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, as well as the abrasive aesthetic of The Velvet Underground and the ear-pleasing melodies of Burt Bacharach.
Run through a barrage of analogue synthesizers as well as Sadier’s signature English and French vocals, these influences have come to define the Stereolab sound.
Despite the band’s seemingly daunting style and sprawling discography, the easiest entry point for most people into the world of Stereolab is the 1993 single “French Disco” – the closest thing the band ever had to a runaway hit.
Showcasing Sadier and Hansen’s interweaving trance-inducing harmonies against a charged, powerful, punk-like instrumental, “French Disco” is immediate and enthralling.
‘Emperor Tomato Ketchup’ and ‘Dots & Loops’
Stereolab’s two most acclaimed records were released practically back-to-back:
In 1996, “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” found the band focusing its diverse set of influences through a set of calming, hypnotic songs that incorporated strings, exotic percussion and samples for the first time in the band’s career.
“Dots & Loops” in 1997 featured more sophisticated arrangements, intricate textures and became the band’s first album to enter the Billboard 200 chart in America, reaching 111 (coincidentally the street number of Lowbrow Palace).
These records are now widely considered to be two of the best albums of the 1990s and are credited with planting the seeds for the genre now referred to as “post rock.”