Stereolab's gift to the alt world may be their fluid, funky sound-collage pop, but their genius is their funky good taste. Culling the best music from their own private dictionary of coolster influences - a little Krautrock here, a dollop of lounge exotica there - they've made their weird little world seem like a paradise unto itself. On the band's new COBRA AND PHASES, the Lab shows impeccable taste in producers, bringing in post-rock dons John McEntire
and Jim O'Rourke
to leaven what is at once their artiest and sexiest work in years. Opening with a bit of improv space-jazz that sounds like Archie Shepp beamed forward to the year 3000, lead cut "Fuses" eventually morphs into a classic Stereolab sonic sponge bath with vocalists Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen cooing and harmonizing above an elegantly tempestuous mix. This sets the tone for a fresh take on the edgy cocktail pop sound of their 1997 outing, DOTS AND LOOPS
. "Italian Shoes/Continuum" suggests keyboardist Sean O'Hagan's High Llamas
at their most flowery - that is until the track abruptly turns into a robotic funk workout. "Op Hop Detonation" and "Strobo Acceleration" lay dense, electro noodling and poppy horn lines over the taught Kraut rock grooves of the band's early '90s releases. An infectious, confounding mix indeed, and another amazing album from one of Britain's finest.