Stereolab have long championed a chic sound for the space age, their slick, modern pop informed by urban bump and a bit of class. And despite an ongoing hiatus, the quartet has mined previous sessions to deliver Not Music, their first release in two years.
The last album of new material from the Londoners was 2008’s Chemical Chords, a collection of compositions built from seventy tiny drum loops overlaid with improvised chord sequences using piano and vibraphone. Not Music digs deeper into the Chemical Chords sessions, and the resulting composition is driven by the oscillating “Everybody’s Weird,” the trilling “So Is Cardboard Clouds,” and the anxious “Equivalences.”
Not Music certainly fills the void left when Stereolab disappeared into the shadows; however, the collection suffers in the hands of others, their trademark charm diluted during long-winded remixes by Emperor Machine (“Silver Sands”) and Atlas Sound (“Neon Beanbag”). The savior during these distractions is the sultry voice of Laetitia Sadier, whose angelic presence fits Lego-tight with the space-pop themes.
Not Music does little to improve Stereolab’s reputation as indie-pop innovators, but it doesn’ detract from the legacy built from two decades of music making. Ultimately, this album confirms that there will always be a place in music for Stereolab.
Not Music is out now on Drag City.