Although this British band's music runs the gamut from dissonant post-punk to bossa nova, their staple sound is something akin to lounge pop for the new millennium, where hypnotic rhythm repetition, bleeps and knob twiddling underscore bright melodies and well-crafted harmonies.
Some critics claim the band simply rips off of 1970s Kraut-rock favorite Neu!; however, Stereolab's recordings reflect a broad musical lineage, including Burt Bacharach, the Beach Boys, Can, and John Cage. And in the mid 1990s, when guitar-driven grunge dominated, they focused on analog synths, moog keyboards and other 'forgotten' instruments. With their focus on the ephemeral and electronic, Stereolab has gone on to inspire and garner praise from such musicians as Sonic Youth, Blur, Pavement, Beck and Air.
Stereolab was the brainchild of Briton Tim Gane and Parisian Laetitia Sadier, who met while Gane was touring France with the London based group McCarthy. Sadier had already established a reputation as a chanteuse, and the pair immediately clicked, both musically and romantically. Sadier added vocals to the final McCarthy release, and in 1991 the two started releasing experimental singles under the name Stereolab. The singles were compiled into the 1992 release 'Switched On', which came out in conjunction with Peng! - the band's first full length album. The duo eventually branched out from the recording studio, and joined forces with vocalist Mary Hansen and drummer Andy Ramsay, who would become part of the core Stereolab group as they made ground, both in the U.K. underground dance and the art rock scenes.
In 1993 Sterolab added Duncan Brown on bass and guitarist Sean O'Hagan, and released The Groop Played 'Space age Bachelor Pad Music.' Later that year, Stereolab signed with major label Elektra, started their own British label, Duophonic, and put out their major label debut, Transient-Random Noise Bursts With Announcements. The record gave the band US and UK college and alternative radio airplay, but it wasn't until 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup that the band made a big splash stateside. With this record they shed some of their lo-fi, art rock roots (although the record was produced by ambient art rock band Tortoise's John McEntire.) Followed a year later with Dots and Loops, the two albums solidified Stereolab's effortless and intelligent pop sound. Mary Hansen and Laetitia Sadier's vocal harmonies endeared them to critics and in the late 1990s, the second track off of Dots and Loops, 'Miss Modular', became a cultural touchstone.
After a hiatus for the birth of Gane's and Sadier's first child, the group released the double album Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, produced again by McEntire and by Sonic Youth's Jim O'Rourke. This record, somewhat less cohesive than the previous two, was followed in 2001 by Sound Dust, an album which signaled a return to more experimental roots. In 2002, the group released their 9th full length, the live album ABC Music: The Radio One Sessions. Tragically, mere months after the release of the live disk, Mary Hansen was hit and killed while riding her bicycle in London. In 2004 the band released its first record without Hansen in twelve years, Margerine Eclipse, which includes a tribute to her entitled 'Feel and Triple.'