Album: Stereolab

Margerine Eclipse, Duophonic
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The Independent Culture

Stereolab's belated follow-up to 2001's Sound-Dust sounds somewhat stale and mired - the result, maybe, of Tim Gane employing lots of old bits that the group had recorded but never got round to using (possibly because they lacked the distinction to merit it). This is the first full-length Stereolab release since the death of the band's founder member Mary Hansen (commemorated here in "Feel and Triple"), though almost as big a difference has resulted from the absence this time of the band's usual production team of Jim O'Rourke and John McEntire, whose influence helped to broaden the band's palette to include horns, strings and pedal steel guitar on previous albums. By contrast, Margerine Eclipse employs mostly keyboard sounds, its busily cycling synth figures hustled along by fussy, jazz-inflected drumming. The songs are about finding common ground, facing the future and being an active participant. But there's little impetus or sense of engagement provided by either the dreary, complacent music or Laetitia Sadier's bland, uninvolved vocals, which tend toward the emotionally neutral even when she's dealing with such charged matters as love and death, power relationships and the "common language of belonging". It sounds like pretty important stuff, but from her delivery you'd never guess why.