Photos by Amanda Farah
Stereolab are a band that really shouldn’t need any introduction. Their two-decade long career produced ten records that brought together an encyclopaedic knowledge of both avant-garde and pop music to create something new, mesmeric and alien. Exactly 10 years since the haitus brought on by the death of singer Mary Hansen and the breakup of the main driving force of the band, Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab are back.
The evening opens with a set by local noise act Speaker Bite Me, who have recently had their own reunion after a ten year break. The howling guitar work and heavy drums and bass are elevated from their influences by the vocals of Signe Høirup Wille-Jørgenson, whose impassioned singing style is in marked contrast to the headliners.
Stereolab have a reputation for being more of an intellectual than an emotive band, whose lyrics are more likely to be about boom-and-bust economic cycles rather than love and breakups. But this side of them is balanced by their honed ears for 60s lounge-style melodies and driving motorik rhythms. By the end of the night my jaw is hurting by grinning all the way through the set as the band tear through crowd-pleaser after crowd-pleaser.
Between Sadier on vocals and Gane on guitar, at the centre of the stage keyboardist Joe Watson brings to life the heart of the Stereolab sound, a mix of dreamy Moog synths, 60s organ and semi-modular bleeps on top of which everything else is built. In a live setting the intricate looping bass lines of Xavier Muñoz Guimera are more pronounced, building the momentum alongside Andy Ramsay’s drums.
Since the death of singer Hansen in 2002 the classic Stereolab overlapping vocals are supplied by Watson and Guimera, who do an admirable job in providing the babbling falsetto underlining Sadier’s cool delivery.
The set is carefully balanced to cover almost all of their records, with slightly more emphasis on their later , more laid-back work, although there are plenty of opportunities for some very vigorous nodding along to “French Disko” and “Ping Pong”. Tonight “Baby Lulu”, from the personally-overlooked Sound-Dust, stands out in its baroqueness, sounding like the next-door neighbour to fellow hauntologists Broadcast, and an incitement to delve ever deeper into the wonders of their catalogue.