Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night

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Barnes & Noble - Jon Dolan
Stereolab's gift to the alt world may be their fluid, funky sound-collage pop, but their genius is their funky good taste. Culling the best music from their own private dictionary of coolster influences - a little Krautrock here, a dollop of lounge exotica there - they've made their weird little world seem like a paradise unto itself. On the band's new COBRA AND PHASES, the Lab shows impeccable taste in producers, bringing in post-rock dons John McEntire and Jim O'Rourke to leaven what is at once their artiest and sexiest work in years. Opening with a bit of improv space-jazz that sounds like Archie Shepp beamed forward to the year 3000, lead cut "Fuses" eventually morphs ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Jon Dolan
Stereolab's gift to the alt world may be their fluid, funky sound-collage pop, but their genius is their funky good taste. Culling the best music from their own private dictionary of coolster influences - a little Krautrock here, a dollop of lounge exotica there - they've made their weird little world seem like a paradise unto itself. On the band's new COBRA AND PHASES, the Lab shows impeccable taste in producers, bringing in post-rock dons John McEntire and Jim O'Rourke to leaven what is at once their artiest and sexiest work in years. Opening with a bit of improv space-jazz that sounds like Archie Shepp beamed forward to the year 3000, lead cut "Fuses" eventually morphs into a classic Stereolab sonic sponge bath with vocalists Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen cooing and harmonizing above an elegantly tempestuous mix. This sets the tone for a fresh take on the edgy cocktail pop sound of their 1997 outing, DOTS AND LOOPS. "Italian Shoes/Continuum" suggests keyboardist Sean O'Hagan's High Llamas at their most flowery - that is until the track abruptly turns into a robotic funk workout. "Op Hop Detonation" and "Strobo Acceleration" lay dense, electro noodling and poppy horn lines over the taught Kraut rock grooves of the band's early '90s releases. An infectious, confounding mix indeed, and another amazing album from one of Britain's finest.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Stereolab took an unprecedented two years between 1997's Dots & Loops and 1999's Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, as they tended to personal matters. For a band that churned out limited-edition singles and EPs, along with an annual album, between 1992 and 1997, complete silence was a complete change of pace, but they happened to pick a good time to go into seclusion. During those two years, Stereolab's brand of sophisticated, experimental post-rock didn't evolve too much, even as their peers, colleagues, and collaborators tried other things: Tortoise got jazzier with TNT, Jim O'Rourke got irresistibly lush and complex with Bad Timing and Eureka, while the High Llamas fleshed out Sean O'Hagan's Beach Boys fetish with 'Lab highlights on Cold and Bouncy. With the exception of O'Rourke, who abandoned Gastr Del Sol's minimalism for grandiosity, they all offered slight expansions of what they did before instead of making great progress. Since each Stereolab album has offered a significant progression from the next, it would have been fair to assume that when they returned with Cobra, it would have been a leap forward, especially since it was co-produced with Tortoise's John McEntire and O'Rourke. Perhaps that's the reason that the album feels slightly disappointing. The group has absorbed McEntire's jazz-fusion leanings -- "Fuses" kicks off the album in compelling, free-jazz style -- and the music continually bears O'Rourke's attention to detail, but it winds up sounding like O'Hagan's increasing tendency of making music that's simply sound for sound's sake. Cobra may seem that way because its pacing is off, with the first half of the album filled with concise numbers that give way to the lengthy "Blue Milk" and "Caleidoscopic Gaze" toward the end; after those two set pieces, it snaps back into succinct mode for the final three songs. Throughout it all, Stereolab's trademarks remain in place, but they're augmented by rhythms, harmonies, horn arrangements, dissonance, muted trumpets, and electric keyboards all out of jazz from the late '60s, whether it's bossa nova or fusion. All fascinating in theory and often in practice, but Cobra still winds up being less than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's because the longer pieces drift, instead of hypnotize or develop; maybe it's because the songs sound like afterthoughts to the arrangements a criticism leveled at Stereolab before but never really applicable until now; maybe it's just because of the odd pace of the album. In any case, Cobra never hits its stride, even as it offers a few miniature masterpieces along the way. Perhaps the time off led to the slight lack of focus, since many moments of the album illustrate that Stereolab is as fascinating as ever. But as an album, Cobra is their first record since Transient Random Noise Bursts to not be fully realized.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/21/1999
  • Label: Elektra / Wea
  • UPC: 075596240925
  • Catalog Number: 62409

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Stereolab Primary Artist
Tim Gane Organ, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Drums, Vocals, Clavinet, Wurlitzer, Electric Harpsichord, Group Member
Mary Hansen Organ, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Drums, Vocals, Clavinet, Wurlitzer, Electric Harpsichord
Rob Mazurek Cornet
Sean O'Hagan Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Piano, Harpsichord, Clavinet
Jim O'Rourke Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Keyboards
Kev Hopper Saw
John McEntire Drums, Keyboards
Steve Waterman Overdubs
Andy Robinson Overdubs
William Hawkes Strings
Mark Bassey Overdubs
Sophie Harris Strings
Jacqueline Norrie Strings
Dominic Murcott Marimba (Electronics)
Colin Crawley Overdubs
Simon Johns Bass
Ramsay Morgan Organ, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Drums, Vocals, Clavinet, Wurlitzer, Electric Harpsichord
Brian G. Wright Strings
Technical Credits
Sean O'Hagan Brass Arrangment
Jim O'Rourke Producer, String Arrangements
John McEntire Producer
Steve Rooke Mastering
Fulton Dingley Producer, Engineer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    The Groop's best album!

    I think this album is Stereolab's best, even better than DOTS AND LOOPS. Its mix of long easy listening tunes, with long smears of electronics and the occasional brass section, groovy space age-funk, and the slowed down ABBA-melody in The Free Design, is just better than anything I've ever heard. It reminds me of the albums that people like Joni Mitchell or Kraftwerk made in the mid-70s, but when you realise that this was made 20 years later, with outstanding musicians, this is indeed something unique and special.

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