The Free Design

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While the title of "The Free Design" pays homage to the cult-favorite harmony-pop outfit of the late '60s, the similarities end there. This percussive, Brazilian-influenced confection from the otherwise disappointing Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night is one of Stereolab's busiest, most densely layered tracks, complete with a thoughtful Laetitia Sadier vocal that perfectly complements her profoundly metaphysical lyrics. The remainder of this four-song EP fails to measure up, however. "Les Aimes des Memes" continues the Brazilian infatuation of "The Free Design" with diminishing results, "With Friends Like These" effortlessly evokes the string-sweetened arrangements of Burt Bacharach's solo LPs, and the electro-burble of "Escape Pod (From the World of Medical Observations)" suffers from the same been-there-done-that malaise that afflicts so much of Cobra and Phases.

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