cobra & phases... (elektra records)

My first visit into the world of Stereolab reminded me a little of a university biology course I once took.  The professor began by laying out the four “immutable” laws of thermodynamics.  You may  remember the second law, the law of entropy.  It states that energy irreversibly goes from a state of order to a state of disorder.  She then went on to explain the theory of evolution, describing the rise of the human race from primordial “ooze.”

Stereolab moves in a similar swift, contra naturam manner on Cobra & Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night.  The album begins with an unstructured, dissonant first track.  My mood was pensive, to say the least, as I anticipated an entire album full of noise.  Fortunately, the group gives way to musical structure and beauty in the remaining tracks, employing breezy melodies and harmonies along the way.

Stereolab has long been a favorite of the underground avant-garde music world, releasing fourteen full-length albums over the last ten years.  With album titles like Emporer Tomato Ketchup and Refried Ectoplasm, you get the idea that something is different about these London art-pop folks.

The group uses hypnotic rhythmic loops and catchy hooks to create easy listening music for the 22nd century.  If we could get a good listen to the Jetson’s hi-fi system, I would guess we’d find Stereolab in heavy rotation.  Breathy lyrics in French, English and the universal language of “La-La-La” let you know quickly that Stereolab does not make their point with words, but rather with their innovate sounds and rhythms.  Ironically, there have been claims of Marxist politics in their lyrics.  If there is some controversy here, they have hidden it well.

Cobra & Phases is excellent background music for just about anything you’d care to do and I guess there’s nothing wrong with that.

Greg Beadles

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