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Stereolab: Margerine Eclipse



Album: Margerine Eclipse
Label: Elektra

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The members of Stereolab have favored expansive exotica and sedate suites on their past few albums, but they've never needed more than a driving keyboard drone and a crisp guitar clip to sound like one of the greatest bands in the world. The group's storied motorik glide has remained a bit muddy and muted since 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup, but it comes rushing back on Margerine Eclipse, an album that twitches with new ideas while relaxing in remembrance. Sonic mastermind Tim Gane has said that he crafted the first single, "'...Sudden Stars'," as a pastiche of old and new source tape, and it shows. "Vonal Declosion" kicks off with a charge seemingly taken from an album already operating at full clip, bubbling over a tight bassline and fitful drum skips that dive through transient random-noise bursts and reflective puddles of organ juice. "Need To Be" follows with a moody harpsichord ode that lifts through floaty vocal clouds on its way to a swinging bit of electronic go-go. Like more fully realized versions of the multi-part suites heard on 2001's Sound-Dust, every song on Margerine Eclipse shifts through jammed-together movements. The aforementioned single draws a crooked line through Stereolab history–chiming tone tests, swooning "la la" vocals, churning organ warmth, zoned-out guitar chug–in what serves as an uplifting farewell to band member Mary Hansen, who died in a bicycling accident just over a year ago. Hansen's memory flecks the stirring, suggestive closer "Dear Marge," but Stereolab pays more direct tribute by sounding fresher and more alive than it has in ages. "Margerine Rock" trades on a gruff guitar tone that makes it certifiably rocking, while tracks like "Hillbilly Motobike" sort through drum fills that unfurl like banners whipped up by wind gusts. As bright and energetic as any album Stereolab has ever made, Margerine Eclipse marks the resurgence of a band meeting its dense back catalog head-on and eyes-up.