Backspin: Two Classic Stereolab Records Revisited

Stereolab’s early mixture of motorik beats and Velvet Underground drones came to fruition on two albums originally released in the early 1990s: Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements and Mars Audiac Quintet. These titles are the subject of new highly anticipated reissues due June 26 on the mysterious “1972” label distributed by Midheaven/Revolver.

On Transient Random-Noise Bursts (1993), Stereolab took NEU’s “Hallogallo” a step further by merging it with a delightfully breezy pop song, then demolishing the whole thing “Sister Ray”-style. This experiment yielded the indie-prog classic “Jenny Ondioline” (the video below omits most of the song’s 18-minute run time).

The rest of the album is an equally compelling mix of overdriven synths, organs, and guitars, soothed only by the cool charm of Laetitia Sadier’s detached vocals.

Mars Audiac Quintet (1994) dials back the fuzz somewhat. The same musical template remains, but this time the band explores a calmer direction, similar in mood and rhythm to Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine. The hypnotic swell of the first two tracks kicks into high gear with the repetitive death mantra of “Transona Five,” and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Stereolab proved to be a viable indie-pop commodity with “Ping Pong,” a bubblegum track that created some momentum on the college charts. Deeper grooves lay ahead: Stereolab would surpass the achievements of Mars Audiac Quintet on Emperor Tomato Ketchup in 1996.

Both albums will appear on vinyl for the first time in the U.S. Given the band’s obsession with analogue electronics, it’s a safe bet that these discs are going to sound fantastic. The release date has already been pushed back from May 15; hopefully fans won’t have to wait much longer to test these out on their own high fidelity audio systems.

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