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Stereolab | Sound Dust (Duophonic)
One or two infamous (and silly) reviews of the last, very left field, spacey album probably pushed the Stereolab cause further away from our attentions. Actually if you shunned the confines of convention and entered its free spirit then it was a great (not so) little record.'Sound Dust' is another great not so little record. The previous album sounded like they had been heavily focused on their collection of difficult modern jazz records. And this time? Who knows: Anna Domino; Martini commercials; Bacharach; the High Llamas take on early 70s Beach Boys; Star Trek themes; sixties pop; none of the above. So business as usual then. Well not quite. Put simply the songs have better tunes that mostly hit the mark rather than merely suggest it. The oft made remark that Stereolab music is cold and clinical (and a few albums back things did get very cool) no longer holds. Laetitia's voice is stronger than ever, there are no long, long repeated keyboard phrases that could make you reach for the 'next' button, it's rich and dense where the more is the merrier, it's comfortable, warm, human, soft and sexy. Captain Easychord has a nice chug along pop/rock tune broken up with nice Byrds-play-psychedelic-country breaks until about three minutes in the song mutates into something even better and brighter, faintly redolent of Bowie's Ashes to Ashes. Double Rocker too holds its real beauty off for a few minutes as does Suggestion Diabolique with its great kaleidoscopic latter half. The finest melody in this collection may be the irresistible Nothing to Do With Me. A kind of 70s soft rock, singer songwriter number where Francois Hardy meets Carole King. The six minute, final track,Les Bons Bons Des Raisons is the only way to finish such an ambitious record. Beautiful harmonies weave over and under several little tunes that comprise what is really a pocket opera, tunes as fine as you'd find in a day of radio 2 listening or a week of radio 1.

Stephen Ridley
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002