Technically Stereolab's music belongs under the heading of experimental noise rock, but wait a minute. While most noise rock is based on the sound of grinding boulders or worse, Stereolab asks the musical question: Why not make noise with sounds that are lighter? Like humming, for instance. The result is an uncompromising, entrancing melange of ambient but not entirely unaggressive rock 'n' roll that recalls Eno's soothing sound scapes as much as the massive guitar constructions of the Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. The band's first U.S. release is the awesomely, accurately titled Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements. The droning guitar tracks have their roots in MBV-esque sound washes, but the scale is different; if My Bloody Valentine plays with ocean waves of sound, Stereolab is playing in the tub. And where bands like MBV look to the future (or just into the void), Stereolab has a gentle yen for anachronism: the guitars are throughly undercut by the band's other passions, namely the Farfisa, analog synthesizers, and an old stereo demonstration record called Channel Recognitions Phasing and Balance, which they salute on both the song "Jenny Ondioline" and the album's cover. The former is an unnerving, hypnotic three-part epic fully 18 minutes long; it's one of the most ambitious and sophisticated pieces of music released by a rock band in recent memory. It pushes the envelope on pop rhythms, guitar drones, and space rock generally, all without sacrificing humor or melody, falling prey to pretensiousness, or loosing sight of the traditional dramatic rock 'n' roll verities. The rest of the record is on a par. But can the do it onstage? The group opens for alternative pop subversives Unrest; Gastr del Sol is on the bill too. Stereolab will also do a free in store performance at Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway (404-5080), at 4 PM Friday as well. Friday 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven Double.