Thursday, December 27, 2007

Excursions into oh, a-oh

It's been several months since I updated this thing. Many changes have hit me lately, but I could not possibly conjure all of them in a retrospective entry. In time, in time. I will be updating more regularly though. How do I know this? Well, I have decided that I will (try to) discover one new album per day, take at least one photo per day, and watch one movie for each day of 2008. Think I can do it? I'm not quite so sure myself, but it's a mission.

I am currently listening to Stereolab's Refried Ectoplasm. Like last winter, I have been entranced by Stereolab's catalogue. I own not even half their music, but my conscience seems to transform when I hear it. The song titles are absurd, some of the lyricism is indecipherable, but the music tunes into a parts of myself I never knew. They blur the boundaries between proper album releases and the rest. The groop astounds me.

What's also wonderful about Stereolab is now I instantly associate each album or song with a time and place in my life.

My checklist:
*Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements (1993): purchased new at Shake-It Records in the $9.99 bin in early 2007.
I believe I was in the record store along when I bought this one. It connected me to the wonderful "Pack Yr Romantic Mind", which they performed as a rare occurrence at the Vic in Chicago on 02/14/06. I love the creepy bass line in the closer, "Lock-Groove Lullaby". The perfect lullaby, indeed.

*Mars Audiac Quintet (1994): purchased used at Chicago's Hi-Fi Records in February 2006.
My ex-girlfriend Kate purchased a couple used Stereolab albums there too. We were blown away by the band's set the previous night. It was a wonderful day of city slicking and urban spelunking. [I just learned that Hi-Fi Records is no longer. The store has closed it doors forever. Perhaps I can still e-mail them and score a t-shirt. Sigh.]

*Refried Ectoplasm [Switched On, Volume 2] (1995): purchased new at the Barnes & Noble in Kenwood tonight with a Christmas gift card.
Tonight was the first time playing it, and my sentiments above say it succinctly, I believe. It was my first time hearing "French Disko", which is wonderful. I had only heard Editors' cover of the song, which I'd highly recommend.

*Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996): also purchased used at Hi-Fi Records on Clark Street in Chicago on 02/15/07.
"Metronomic Underground"/"Cybele's Reverie" is one of the most amazing album opener, 1-2 punches I can name. The former was teased at the end of the Vic Theatre set, even though the song had not been performed live since Mary Hansen's tragic and fatal accident. Definitely a shocker to hear those notes in that theatre.

*Dots and Loops (1997): purchased new at the Tower Records on North Clark Street in Chicago in March 2006, which also no longer exists.
"The Flower Called Nowhere" is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. "Miss Modular", I'd recommend as the most aurally friendly dose of Stereolab to the untrained ear. Overall, Dots and Loops might not be their most accessible release. Many have complained about its length. I will say that it makes a great study album.

This was the five-state trip with Kate, during which we stayed in the Write Inn in Oak Park. I played this album repeatedly on my way home to Cincinnati. I knew something did not feel right. I was entranced by the subsonic volume of the album playing. A few days later I was told that we would be taking a break. Sometimes you just know that something is about to happen.

*Aluminum Tunes [Switched On, Volume 3] (1998): received used from Shake-It Records as a gift from my friend Ian in December 2007.
I recently turned him on to Stereolab's work, beginning with Fab Four Suture. I couldn't be more pleased that albums I deem grossly underrated are being appreciated by individuals I respect. I thank him for Aluminum Tunes, the third Switched On rarities compilation. The quality of non-album Stereolab material reinforces my earlier comment about blurring the boundaries between proper albums and otherwise. 2 discs, 25 songs, nothing but bliss. "The Brush Descends The Length", "Iron Man", and "One Note Samba/Surfboard" have my brain tingling.

(The following was added on January 21st, 2008...)

*Sound-dust (2001): purchased used from Shake-It Records in late 2006.
I listened to this album regularly and obsessively during the cold winter months of my freshman year at UC. It would put me in an amazingly fertile mindset for studying or paper-writing. This is still the album I would recommend over any of Stereolab's other releases. I would consider it their darkest release, but with songs like "Space Moth", how could anyone not appreciate the sudden u-turns in mid-song.

*Instant O in the Universe (2003): purchased new at Sounds on St. Marks Place in New York, NY.
This is the release that started it all for me. I had heard "Good Is Me" on WOXY several months earlier, and I was in the mood to buy several CDs during my trip. I don't quite remember if Margerine Eclipse had been released yet. This turned out to be one of the most solid EPs I ever bought. My favorite song title, "Jaunty Monty and the Bubbles of Silence," is also on this disc. It's an amazing piece of work that always puts me in a great mood.

*Margerine Eclipse (2004): purchased used at Shake-It Records in early 2007.
There isn't much to say about this record. I am aware that it impressed many people I know, but it still has not mystified me. "...Sudden Stars," which was on Instant O, is also on Margerine Eclipse. The fantastic closer on Instant O, "Mass Riff," is also on this album in an abridged form (perhaps on "Margerine Melodie"?). It just doesn't do it for me like all the other albums have. The album following it blew my mind though...

*Fab Four Suture (2006): purchased new at Tower Records on Clark Street in Chicago on 03/13/06.
I saw Stereolab with my ex-girlfriend Kate the night before. We had promised each other that we would see them live if we ever got the chance. One month earlier, we had fulfilled a vow to see Supergrass if the chance ever graced us. (It happened to fall on February 14th of that year.) We saw Stereolab at the beautiful Vic Theatre, the same venue where we saw Supergrass. It was a magical time on our lives. Everything felt like a dream. Perhaps that's not the smartest way to live life but I wouldn't have traded those days for anything.

Fortunately, my friend Ian has fallen in love with this album. Songs like "Interlock" and "Excursions Into Oh, A-Oh" infect the mind. The instrumentation is at its best on Fab Four Suture. Anyone who's at least curious about Stereolab should start with this, no questions asked.

In related news, I just heard "One Note Samba / Surfboard" from Aluminum Tunes in Sitwell's Coffeehouse a couple days ago (January 19th). I was floating in my chair with glee.

1 comment:

mia said...

one album, one photo, one movie. thats a creative marathon. i wish ye well on the journey to come in 2008.if you find the reserves to be successful i would be grateful to hear your secret. youre also a fulltime student like me? i've decided to write, record and produce a song every 3 days and im drained already thinking about it. i just realised how crap i am at the guitar ahahaha... but positive thoughts and all that. stereolab sound intriguing! i may have to limewire a preview of their work..