Stereolab

Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements [Expanded Edition]

(CD - Duophonic / Warp #DUHFCD 02R)

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Though it was their major-label debut, Stereolab make no concessions on Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. If anything, it's one of the most eclectic and experimental releases in Stereolab's early career, emphasizing the group's elongated Krautrock jams, instrumentals, and harsh, noisy moments. The album begins and ends with smooth, sensual washes of sound like "Tone Burst" and "Lock-Groove Lullaby" and smoothly bouncy pop songs like "I'm Going Out of My Way." These softer, more accessible moments surround complex and varied compositions such as "Analogue Rock," "Our Trinitone Blast," and "Golden Ball," which, with its distorted vocals and shifting tempos, serves as an appetizer for "Jenny Ondioline." A hypnotic, 18-minute epic encompassing dreamy yet driving pop, a Krautrock groove, forceful, churning guitars, and a furious climax, it's the most ambitious -- and definitive -- moment of Stereolab's early years. But Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements also features quietly experimental pieces such as "Pause," a slightly spooky song that uses distorted whispers as a rhythm track and places fluttery keyboards and Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen's sweet, slightly alien harmonies atop it. Likewise, the very sexy, very French "Pack Yr Romantic Mind" reveals the growing influence of '50s and '60s easy listening on the group's musical direction. If Switched On and Peng! defined the band's essential sound, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements expanded it, ensuring Stereolab's place as one of the most innovative and evolving groups of the '90s.

[The deluxe edition of Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements kicks off Stereolab's 2019 reissue series with a trove of rarities and demos that provide a thorough -- and fascinating -- examination of the album's songs and sound. Much of the bonus material pays tribute to the powers of the album's centerpiece, "Jenny Ondioline," and "French Disko," a B-side on the Jenny Ondioline EP that ended up defining Stereolab's music at the time as much as anything that appeared on the album. A strum-along version of "Jenny" reveals the song's bones and allows Laetitia Sadier's vocals and revolutionary lyrics to take the spotlight, while a three-and-a-half-minute exploration of its rhythm section and a six-and-a-half-minute, largely instrumental excerpt of its breakdown hint at the expansive glory of the final track. The versions of "French Disko" might be even more illuminating: "Fragments" turns the song's elements into an abstract collage; the demo transforms it into a mantra; and "French Disco (Early Version)" gives it a surprising heaviness that borders on garage rock, with spooky organ stabs and blazing guitars that evoke the rawness of Stereolab's live show at the time. Stripped-down but lovely demos of "I'm Going Out of My Way," "Lock Groove Lullaby," and "Pause," as well as original mixes of "Analogue Rock" and "Pause," round out the bonus material, which offers many treats for fans who want to hear how Stereolab's music took shape.]

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