Stereolab – Kybernetická Babicka Pt.1& 2 / Plastic Mile / Interlock

Kybernetická Babicka Pt.1& 2 / Plastic Mile / Interlock

With the launch earlier this year of the justifiably acclaimed retrospective singles/EPs boxset, Oscillons from the Anti-Sun, Stereolab reminded the music world – and perhaps its members – that notching-up frequent fleeting visits can often be better than long periodic stopovers. Hence the shrewd decision to divert attention away from the band’s latter-day weaknesses as an albums band – and to capitalise on the goodwill for the Oscillons material – with three brand new singles.

Released simultaneously, these cleverly packaged 7″s (also available as downloads if you’re one to get excited about collecting computer files) revel in the nostalgic novella delights that non-album singles still have to offer – even though the material itself may not meet the classicism of earlier short-form Stereolab products.

As is often said, the endurance of the vinyl format can in part be attributed to the fact it makes listeners feel like the final part of the music-making experience, not a passive removed party. Therefore these six sides of the crackly stuff could be played in any order to build up a patchwork quilt of multifarious directions. However, it soon becomes pretty clear in what order the authors intended this six-part suite to be played in.

Thus the “Kybernetická Babicka Pts 1 & 2” single is pretty obviously the entrée. It’s a two-part/two-sides song with Laetitia Sadier cooing wordlessly over layers of burbling synths, buoyant brass, and metronome-precise percussion, reminiscent of the lush neo-easy listening passages on the band’s 2001 long-player Sound-Dust. Ultimately, this split piece doesn’t really mark any real progression/regression – and Sadier sounds worryingly disinterested in Tim Gane’s sonic bedding – but it’s certainly up to standard in terms of craftsmanship and melodic impact.

The second single is perhaps the bridging section of the triple vinyl set. “Plastic Mile” cruises things along at a similarly mellow pace to “Kybernetická Babicka”, with squelching moogs and marginally more engaged vocals from Sadier. In contrast, the flipside “I Was a Sunny Rainphase” allows a more energised pulsing groove to kick in. A groove that’s given some sexy legs on the strutting delights of “Interlock,” on the first side of single three, wherein Stax-like horns swagger, the guitars and bass get some funky licks, and Sadier delivers her most memorable (and indeed audible) lyric in eons. “Visionary Road Maps” closes the six-song snack buffet with all the elements from the previous five songs bustling together in a tasty arty pudding.

Ultimately, if Stereolab was aiming to sneak out a few unadventurous career-filler songs under the veil of a novelty release concept, then these folks have clearly succeeded with succinct and savvy aplomb. The fact that this black plastic trio also includes a smattering of Stereolab’s most enjoyable pop nuggets in some time can only be a bonus.