Stereolab at New Century, Manchester, 27 November 2022, from £29.07 - Book now
Following the re-release of their seven Elektra studio albums alongside previously unheard material, Stereolab are in the middle of a world tour, calling in at Manchester’s New Century on 27 November.
Authors of some of the most distinctive music made in the ’90s, Stereolab and their extra-terrestrial pop were hugely influential across the decade and beyond. Splicing together fringe genres like Krautrock, lounge-pop and bossa nova, they coined a new language – one that many other bands then emulated.
Formed in 1990 by analogue gear fanatic Tim Gane and his then partner, French singer Lætitia Sadier, the band’s early material looked to ’60s pop stars on the one hand and to Krautrock bands like Faust and Neu! on the other. The resultant combination of singsong melodies and droning hypnotic rhythms was startlingly different to the zeitgeist, made even more unusual by Sadier’s French lyrics promoting revolutionary, Marxist politics.
The band bubbled away in the underground (where they won fans in Sonic Youth, Pavement and Blur) for a good few years, before 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup catapulted them towards mainstream consciousness. 1997’s seminal Dots and Loops kept them there, with future-leaning tracks like ‘Brakhage’, ‘Diagonals’ and ‘Parsec’ hard to ignore. These albums were on the one hand catchy, melodic masterpieces, and on the other experimental weirdos, drawing ethereal threads between genres like IDM, calypso, psychedelia, minimalism and alien trip hop.
Leading up to their 2009 hiatus, Stereolab released eight more albums, but none would quite match those early records, released on the now-iconic record label, Elektra. Hence the band making their Elektra records the focus of their recently-completed reissue campaign, which also included a Switched On series of compilations. Pulse of the Early Brain – the fifth compilation, released in September 2022 – collects every remaining leftover from Stereolab’s substantial discography: rare EPs, singles, and stray comp tracks. It might just be the concluding statement of the era-defining band, at least as far as their recorded output goes.
But live is another story; they’re currently slap bang in the middle of a world tour, and they are absolutely worth watching at Manchester’s prettiest new venue: New Century. We last caught Stereolab live at Psych Fest 2021, and they were an absolute standout. Despite the setlist being filled with tunes that were 25-odd years old, they still somehow sounded futuristic. Maybe they always will.
Stereolab at New Century, Manchester