Transient Random-Noise Bursts / Mars Audiac Quintet

With expanded re-issues of two of their classic 90s albums and a world tour soon to come, it's the perfect time to fall for Stereolab's charms all over again, finds Anna Rahkonen

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. After a near ten year hiatus, Stereolab have begun a string of seven album reissues, kicking off with 1993’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts and 1994’s Mars Audiac Quintet. True to form, the reissues have been crafted with visible care and laser-precision, padding both of the album re-masterings with bundles of delightful bonus material, including alternate mixes and early demos.

Transient Random-Noise Bursts offers a shined up edition of some of their most biting, strung-out exercises in Krautrock roleplay. The gritty, hypnotic ‘Tone Burst’ polishes up nicely; the delectably richened wall of sound bursts in at the halfway mark, leaving Lætitia Sadier’s low hums swimming, but never drowning in the mix. The gargantuan ‘Jenny Ondioline’ is treated with multiple companion bits, such as a drum-backwards-bass-organ instrumental version and the tightened-up 7” version. Each oscillation of its roaring 18-minute sum bleeds with a fresh gleam, remaining as galvanizing and electric as ever.

Mars Audiac Quintet sees the band foreshadowing their eventual dive into jazzy pop, largely exchanging the noisy outbursts for a cleaner, more spaced-out frame. Their taste for political tenets is peppered over rolling motorik beats (‘Nihilist Assault Group’) but is also tested over jangly pop backings, like on the brilliant ‘Ping Pong’. The album finds the Groop at some of their most refined and aesthetically sound points, achieving a level of fidelity that would only continue to rise moving forward.

In both reissues, there are plenty of details between the original release and the new edition to be picked over by hawk-eyed fans (cf. the slight shortening of ‘Ulan Bator’). However, the richest discoveries are to be found in the demo versions of select songs on both reissues. When stripped down to their bones, the songs appear newly warm and intimate. ‘Lock Groove Lullaby’ and ‘Des Etoile Electroniques’ are nearly unsettling in the best way, lifting the shade of the group’s meticulous image and exposing only distant traces of their signature sound.

This first set of reissues feel like a gift, brimming with material that’s sure to satisfy eager devotees. With the promise of more reissues to come (plus an extensive world tour beginning later this month), there proves no better time to fall for Stereolab’s charm all over again.

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