Stereolab

Dots and Loops

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On Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab moved in two directions simultaneously -- it explored funkier dance rhythms while increasing the complexity of its arrangements and compositions. For its follow-up, Dots and Loops, the group scaled back its rhythmic experiments and concentrated on layered compositions. Heavily influenced by bossa nova and swinging '60s pop, Dots and Loops is a deceptively light, breezy album that floats by with effortless grace. Even the segmented, 20-minute "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse" has a sunny, appealing surface -- it's only upon later listens that the interlocking melodies and rhythms reveal their intricate interplay. In many ways, Dots and Loops is Stereolab's greatest musical accomplishment to date, demonstrating remarkable skill -- their interaction is closer to jazz than rock, exploring all of the possibilities of any melodic phrase. Their affection for '60s pop keeps Dots and Loops accessible, even though that doesn't mean it is as immediate as Emperor Tomato Ketchup. In fact, the laid-back stylings of Dots and Loops makes it a little difficult to assimilate upon first listen, but after a few repeated plays, its charms unfold as gracefully as any other Stereolab record.

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