Stereolab | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Stereolab singer-guitarist Mary Hansen, who was killed in a bicycle accident in late 2002, was a crucial component of the band's sound: in concert it was she who elevated breathy, wordless cooing and ba-ba-ba-ing from bachelor-pad kitsch to exquisite art-pop trope. On Margerine Eclipse (Elektra), the 'Lab's first album since her death, the multitracked vocals of founding member Laetitia Sadier uncannily simulate Hansen's presence, as lush layers of harpsichord, organ, electric piano, celeste, and analog synth cascade over Simon John's slinking bass lines, Andy Ramsay's weightless yet propulsive drumming, and Tim Gane's relentless guitar strumming; in working through the tragedy the band has produced its sunniest album since the mid-90s. "Feel and Triple," the group's farewell to Hansen, is more triumphant than elegiac, ending with the line "You will sing forever like an angel who flew away." And the hard-charging "Margerine Rock"--which underscores the band's connection to its crucial early influences Neu! and the Velvet Underground--ranks among the greatest Stereolab tracks ever. Other cuts are less like full-fledged songs than sumptuously textured sound collages, shot through with pretty but evanescent snippets of melody. Some of it's hard to remember, but when you're in the thick of it, it's a luscious dream. Clearlake opens. 18 and over. Wednesday, April 7, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.

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