Not Music

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Though Not Music was released in 2010, it was recorded at the same time as 2008’s Chemical Chords, after touring in support of which Stereolab went on hiatus. Despite its semi-archival status, the album sounds fresh, and distinct from Chemical Chords. It shares the streamlined feel of that album, but many of these songs don’t fit that album’s distillation of lounge, Motown, and French pop elements -- and those that do, such as the brisk, brassy “Supah Jaianto” and “Everybody’s Weird Except Me,” sound like warped reflections of them. Instead, Not Music charts the more adventurous turns the band’s sessions took, providing the more experimental yang to Chemical Chords' bubbly pop yin. These songs take a more cerebral, yet still playful, approach that starts with song titles such as “Delugeoisie” and trickles down to clever arrangements. There are moments that evoke Stereolab's quintessential sounds; “Equivalences” rides a descending keyboard motif that the group’s fans will recognize immediately, while the dreamy waltz “Aelita” and “Lelekato Sugar”'s mix of fuzz bass, marimba, and Laetitia Sadier's sweetly whispered philosophical nothings evoke the Mars Audiac Quintet/Emperor Tomato Ketchup era. Even more intriguing are songs like “Laserblast,” which mixes Raymond Scott-esque percolating percussion with new wave angles and knotty chords, and “Pop Molecules (Molecular Pop 2),” a heavy grind that features a pungent sax solo the likes of which hasn’t been heard since Peter Gunn’s heyday. However, Not Music's most exciting moment has to be “Silver Sands" [Emperor Machine Mix], a ten-minute marathon that moves from swift motorik to disco to downtempo interludes, all the while making the most of Sadier's velvety alto. It’s almost unrecognizable from the Chemical Chords track and should scratch the itch of fans longing for a latter-day “Jenny Ondioline.” Atlas Sound's remix of “Neon Beanbag” follows suit, as Bradford Cox returns the favor of Sadier's Logos appearance with a breathy, droning rework of the track that drifts away just as hazily as it began. Not Music is all over the place in the best possible way, and fans who love Stereolab's gracefully intellectual side will especially appreciate it. Taken with Chemical Chords, it’s a testament to just how much ground the band could cover while remaining purely Stereolab.

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