Stereolab Strike Again With Cobra And Phases

Post-rock band's latest album aims to seduce with jazz, Brazilian spice.

Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier wants her band's music to seduce and titillate you.

To that end, the group mixed its patented "space-age bachelor-pad" sound with jazz and subtle Brazilian influences on its 1999 album, Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night, creating a familiar yet fresh experience.

"[We're] preoccupied with the fact that [our music] should sound unique," Sadier said. "It should really seduce you on the level of a beautiful melody, but it should also titillate you in a sense that you've never quite heard it that way before."

With the 1993 release of The Groop Played "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music," Stereolab came to the fore of what's since been termed post-rock, a genre defined by its fluid rhythms and sonic experimentation, with roots in '50s lounge music, and featuring edgy electronics and a lush pop songcraft a la Burt Bacharach.

Though Cobra songs such as "People Do It All the Time" and the French-language "The Spiracles" (RealAudio excerpt) conform to that mix, other tracks on the album, released in September, indicate a variety of jazzier influences.

The album's opener, "Fuses," features a vibraphone line that sounds as if it could have been written by bebop pianist Thelonious Monk. "The Free Design" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Blips Drips and Strips" echo the mid-1970s jazz-fusion work of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, music that Sadier said Stereolab listened to frequently during the making of Cobra and Phases.

The French-born Sadier, 31, who brings her love of French pop music to Stereolab's sound, said the group's eclectic albums stem from the bandmembers' penchant for collective improvisation.

"By the very nature of the way we record, we have to just come up with ideas on the spot," Sadier said.

"Our music is made up of so many things," she added. "It's a collage that creates, in the end, a bigger picture."

Their group approach made for fun in the studio as well as for more fully realized music, according to producer Jim O'Rourke.

"It was a very fun, giddy way to work," said O'Rourke, who's also an experimental guitarist and composer. "For [guitarist] Tim [Gane], the process of seeing what the studio and collaborative atmosphere can do to the songs seems to be the excitement of recording."

When the band takes the stage, fans hear radically different versions of the music, according to Sadier.

"There's no way we can replicate the record," she said. "It gives the music something quite different. I think it would be terribly boring if all these people came to see us and we just replicated the record."

Stereolab just completed a five-week tour of the United States. They'll return to the road in February — touring Japan, Australia and Europe — before coming back to the States in the spring. In the meantime, they're in the studio again, recording a five-song EP that Sadier says the band plans to release in April.