Stereolab - Electrically Possessed (Switched On Vol. 4) Music Album Reviews

Stereolab - Electrically Possessed (Switched On Vol. 4) Music Album Reviews
The fourth volume in the endlessly innovative group’s long-running series reminds us that they often dropped their best work away from their full-lengths.

In his book Retromania, writer (and occasional Pitchfork contributor) Simon Reynolds called Stereolab “the ultimate record-collection rockers” to describe their crate-digging, obscurantist aesthetic. But the label also applies to the group’s approach to releasing its own music. Stereolab’s discography is littered with singles, limited-release EPs, and compilation appearances—manna for their fellow vinyl junkies. The band gathered up this non-LP material for a series called Switched On. Stereolab released three such collections through the ’90s and, to cap off their recent run of deluxe album reissues, have put together a fourth volume, subtitled Electrically Possessed.
The sneaky secret that these comps keep revealing is that the group often dropped some of their best work away from their full-lengths. Bouncy fan favorite “Lo Boob Oscillator” first appeared on a 1993 single on Sub Pop, and the lush soundtrack Stereolab created for sculptor Charles Long’s exhibition The Amorphous Body Study Center was originally only available to purchase at New York’s Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Switched On Vol. 4 is no exception. Primarily made up of work Stereolab released from 1999 until their initial hiatus in 2009, this compilation is a bounty of highlights from a rich period when Tim Gane was writing pop songs with multi-layered, almost-proggy arrangements to better support frontwoman Lætitia Sadier’s dense sociopolitical lyrics.

The highlight of this compilation is the band’s 2000 EP The First of the Microbe Hunters. Recording during a particularly fruitful creative stretch that yielded two brilliant full-lengths (1999’s Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night and 2001’s Sound-Dust), it’s a bubbly, groove-heavy rush. The steady motorik drive and incessant marimba melody of “Outer Bongolia” is almost trance-inducing, but reality keeps intruding via a clash of synthesizer and electric piano solos. On “Household Names” and “Barock-Plastic,” Gane, drummer Andy Ramsay, and bassist Simon Johns lay into Meters-like breakbeats that dovetail neatly with the warmth of Sadier’s vocals.

Microbe Hunters proved to be an evolutionary step for Stereolab, bridging the jazzy sprawl of Cobras and Sound-Dust’s thick, complex pop. The best of the tracks that make up the rest of Electrically come from this same time period. “The Super It,” originally found on the 1999 tour single The Underground Is Coming, predicted the sound of Microbe Hunters with its loping funk rhythm and the gloriously knotted-up vocals of Sadier and the late Mary Hansen.

That same year saw the release of “Calimero,” a collaboration with French vocalist Brigitte Fontaine that sounds like an effort to condense Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson into six minutes. And “Free Witch and No Bra Queen,” one of two songs released on a 2001 single, echoes Sound-Dust’s multi-part compositions. It starts with a looped sample of a jazz record that falls out of sync with itself a la Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain” before smash-cutting to a bit of swinging psych pop that feels constructed from stray pieces of other Stereolab tunes.

Gane would return to this concept of spot-welding two dissimilar sounding songs together throughout Stereolab’s pre-hiatus period, on tracks like “Captain Easychord” and throughout the 2003 EP Instant 0 in the Universe. That extends to work like “Solar Throw-Away,” from a 2006 tour single, which shifts from a canter to a skip to a disco strut, and the marvelous “Dimension M2,” which begins and ends as a Giorgio Moroder homage with a trudging breakdown in the middle. Somehow, even at their most abrupt, Gane makes these transitions feel logical.

As an odds and sods collection, Electrically Possessed naturally doesn’t move along the same deliberate course as a proper album, at least once you get beyond Microbe Hunters. The material compiled here isn’t sequenced chronologically, so the mood and sound jumps from track to track and there are a small number of nonessential inclusions, like a previously unreleased, demo-quality snippet from the Dots and Loops sessions.

But even in this scattershot form, what’s remarkable about this edition of Switched On is how Stereolab was able to maintain such consistency even as they kept cranking out albums and EPs, enduring the death of singer Mary Hansen in 2002 and the dissolution of Gane and Sadier’s romantic partnership. And now that the band has resumed activity along with the reissue of seven of their studio albums, Electrically Possessed feels like a final cleaning of the archives that will hopefully inspire them to look ahead to new horizons.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Stereolab - Electrically Possessed (Switched On Vol. 4) Music Album Reviews Stereolab - Electrically Possessed (Switched On Vol. 4) Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 06, 2021 Rating: 5


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