Saturday, February 13, 2016

Diary of Musical Thoughts Podcast Episode 28

"Rebuttal of FACT Focus 6 - Stereolab", 90 minutes

"Episodes of FACT Focus focus on a specific artist, label, scene, or sound".  That's FACT's mission statement for this relatively new mix series, and that description actually makes it sound less exciting than the reality.  Six episodes in, it's been one of the most adventurous mix series around, eschewing all the obvious artists and safe trends.   Episode 6 was a 2.5 hour journey into the deepest depths of Stereolab's catalogue, impeccably sequenced and with outstanding track selection.  It also made me a little bit mad.

Most overviews of Stereolab tend to focus on a style that I once referred to as "outer space science pop with cooing French lyrics".  This became their signature sound sometime around "Dots and Loops", which is now regarded as one of their very best albums for reasons that I've never fully understood.  This was a time when John McEntire was their go-to producer and everything started sounding a bit too clean and shiny for my taste.  I've been meaning to revisit all of Stereolab's post-2000 work for a while now, on one hand they settled into a fairly nonadventurous homogeneity during their final decade but on the other hand some stuff was underappreciated and seems to get better with age (e.g. "Sound Dust").  Hopefully that's a post for another time.

Anyhow, the problem with Jon Dale's Stereolab mix for FACT is that it almost completely ignores the loud, two chord, Velvet-y droning, Krautrock-obsessed, endlessly repetitive style that is MY favourite style associated with Stereolab.  It's the style they were known for when they started out and that dominated a majority of their recordings for the first four or five years of their career.  I get that albums like "Mars Audiac Quintet" aren't for everyone -- the same Krautrock boogie played 15 different ways -- but this was the version of the band that I idolized and played to death in the 90's.  And so I made my own Stereolab focus mix, a rebuttal of sorts to the FACT Focus mix.

Here I present ninety minutes of a different side of Stereolab, one that's necessarily slanted toward their early years, but I tried to spread things around as best I could.  Some of my all-time 'Lab favourites are here, but it's not a personal all-time top ten or anything.  This is meant to be an overview of a style, in the spirit of the FACT Focus series, not an excuse to cram all of my favourites onto a single mix.

Think of it as a companion piece to the FACT mix.  Put together, you have four hours of Stereolab that hardly feels like we're scratching the surface -- hardly any singles are represented, for instance!  And if you're looking for connections between the two styles, anyone who saw Stereolab play live knows that they only sounded soft on studio recordings.  Right up until the end, they were a groovemaking machine that rocked out on stage into infinity, as some of the live cuts and radio sessions on this mix will show (Tracks 8,10,11, and 13 are live radio sessions, tracks 12 and 14 are in concert).

(note: to avoid possible flagging of this mix, I altered the artist name in the track listing in a few places.  Don't worry, it's all Stereolab.)

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