Friday, February 05, 2010

Oreilles Gauloises (Comfort Sounds Edition): Mars Audiac Quintet (Stereolab)


You know those days when you wake up, and you feel that it's all wrong? You can't make sense of anything, and your spirit feels totally broken. I get those once in a while, in my neurotic, cynicism-riddled Gen-Xer's mind. There are a few things that help me in those instances; some of these remedies are healthy (cuddling with the kittehs, cuddling with the missus, a nice, warm shower, talking to a good friend, etc.), others not so healthy (ranting on FaceBook, eating junk food, watching MSNBC). Music also plays a definite role for me in recovering from these moments of deep funk, and there are two bands in particular that I find work well for me: Kraftwerk and Stereolab. I will talk about Kraftwerk later, but for now I'd like to focus on Stereolab, and their 1994 album Mars Audiac Quintet.

Stereolab is primarily the efforts of the Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier music team. He's English. She's French. This album (their fourth) is where they started perfecting their wonderful synth-driven melodies and combining them with Sadier's soothing vocals. Some of the songs are sung in English, some in French, but it makes little difference in the end: all are amazing and mesmerizing sonic experiments that can at times sound like 60's pop, or Krautrock noise, or even lounge music.

When I have a bad day, I know with complete certainty that I can put this record on, and my worries will dissipate. I don't know why exactly. I think that Sadier's voice has an effect on me, and that somehow, a sense of serenity comes over me whenever I hear her sing.....well, and I guess the fact that I have a major crush on her might have something to do with it as well.

This is a synth album. It's all over this record, and when mixed with beautiful pop melodies sung by Princess Laetitia, the result is very often quite magical. Not many bands have been able to do this successfully (I can only think of one: Brooklyn's Au Revoir Simone), and I am quite grateful that Stereolab has so many records to explore and listen to whenever those dark clouds appear on the horizon.

Les villes vues d’avion sont semblables
Les villes vues d’avion sont semblables
À des étoiles éléctroniques
Qui sont écrasés au sol pour prendre racine
Et vivre ainsi étalés.

I feel better already.

1 comment:

C - Log said...

Thanks for introducing me to this marvelous group, Signor del Banco. I feel fortunate to have seen them in October 2008 at The Paradise in Boston, a stop on what turned out to be their last U.S. tour before they went on indefinite hiatus.

I feel the same way about Sadier. She is so soothing, like a mother singing a lullaby. Her on-stage personality is very much in sync with that as well. Soothing and calm, with a measure of wit and silliness. When the sound system acted up at The Paradise, she was unfazed, apologizing for "some technicalities" in that sweet French-accented voice. She also generously informed us of the Red Sox' victory over the Angels in the third and clinching game of the American League Division Series.

That same month, I played Stereolab on my iPod as I rode the Orange Line to the start of the BAA half-marathon. The combination of Sadier's voice and that rhythmic motorik beat is an ideal pre-race soundtrack.

Last November, we were driving my brother the endurance runner to the start of the Pinhoti 100 in Heflin, Alabama and a Stereolab song came up on the iPod. "What's this?" the long-time devotee of jam bands asked. "I really like the beat... good way to get in the groove for running."

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