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Culture news
Musical Experiments in Stereo
07.09.2004 12:23

stereolab Backed by the British Council, Stereolab will come to St. Petersburg for a one-off concert and plan to spend five days in the city. The band, which suffered a tragic loss when the guitarist and second vocalist Mary Hansen was killed in a bicycle accident in London in February 2002, has since gone through some lineup changes.

"We have a half-different lineup, so this adds quite a different sound," said guitarist Tim Gane, speaking by phone from his London home.

"I mean, it's still a Stereolab sound, the heart of it stays the same but in the kind of instrumentation that we have and the kind of textures that we can do live, it's a bit more involved than before. Basically, there's more things than before. It's not sort of simplified, it's not sort of as reduced as before."

Gane admitted that the set-list will not be much different to that of Stereolab's recent world promotion tour of most recent album "Margerine Eclipse," although the band will try to perform as many songs, both old and new, as it can.

"I don't want to play only the new record," said Gane.

"We concentrate mainly on the new record first. And then we begin to add what we have time for at the end - sort of older songs to throw in around it. But I mean, obviously, for the band it's more exciting, of course, to play newer material. Especially for Stereolab, because the songs at the end of the tour, the new ones, are very very different than those of the beginning. At the beginning of the tour they sound more like on the record, but towards the end of the tour they've gone through drastic changes.

"And some songs get dropped because they don't develop, and some songs develop into something totally different from what was on the LP. Whatever song we decide to do, it is only the starting point, really.

"And the old songs, they ought to be played sort of classically, the way they were recorded. But of course we got a different lineup, different instruments, so even the old songs sound different now. So, it will be quite a different show, quite a different performance to the one we did in Moscow four years ago."

Released in February, "Margerine Eclipse" is the band's first album since the 1991 "Sound-Dust."

"The last LP was an odd LP for me," said Gane.

"It was the very first album in a long time that had no kind of concept sound at all. I purposely wanted to write a record that was just a collection of songs. And I did it for the reason that, we were building our own studio in France at the time, or we were about to do it. I wanted to do just a collection of songs which would be quite simple to record, because I felt that the studio would be quite primitive, and not what we had been used to, I suppose, going to Chicago, with John McIntyre, etc.

"So the idea was to write a quite simple, direct set of songs, which could be played kind of live. In the end, it was like seven months before we actually started recording. In the meantime, many things had happened, and by the time we got to record, basically, I wasn't interested in the idea of playing the set of the songs live or anything like that, and I didn't know what to do about it. In the end what we decided to do was one arrangement of the music on one speaker and a totally separate, different arrangement of the same songs on the other speaker. So the LP sounds a little different in the way that we recorded it, more than in the way that I originally wrote the music."

Always experimenting, Gane said he invented this technique just a few days before the band went to the studio.

"This idea just occurred to me literally three days before we started recording. I didn't know what to do but the idea came from the set. Because we were going to do it live, but we didn't want to do it live anymore. So, I thought what we can do, is maybe record one speaker live, and then with the other speaker we could just do an arrangements, with electronics, work on some parts with Sean O'Hagen, for instance. So we would have two versions.

"It quickly became apparent that it was much more interesting to do totally different arrangements, not to try to make one live and one acoustic, or one electronic and one acoustic, whatever, and just see what developed. And I think it was quite interesting and exciting for us, because it meant that we had to come up with a lot of obstacles and things that we hadn't previously come across. And the one thing that was good was making, coming up with new things to do, which, I think, is always good in music."

While the band's French singer, Laetitia Sadier, is responsible for lyrics, the main man behind Stereolab's music is Gane, though he avoids describing himself as a "songwriter."

"I'm not a songwriter, I'm not a composer," he said.

"I tend to assemble our music more in a sense of a lot of montage in film or collage in art. It's more of an assemblance of different parts, and what interests me is how they go together, the juxtaposition of all sorts of elements. This is a kind of constant thing were've gone through from beginning to now as a group. That's because my idea of music is more artistic. I'm not interested in achieving a specific goal with what we do, I'm interested in seeing what happens when you set up a specific situation or scenario that allows elements to come by. So, for me this is why I'm doing it. So, at the end of this all there is not only one element in doing the music - the actual participation is equally as important for me. I never try to sort of predict the way it will turn out in the end. So this is why it is always funny, when people say, "Oh, this record is a lot more commercial than previous ones" or "This one is more uncommercial". And in the end it is irrelevant for me, because I don't design a record to be more or less commercial, more or less uncommercial, or more pop or less pop, or more jazz or less jazz - it's just the elements that seem to appear intuitively in recording that come to the front.

"You see, a lot of people listen to music in a way that I would call surface-like, subjectively, and I'm more interested in the content of music. And the content I think is quite dense and strong in Stereolab. The way we decided to do arrangements changes a lot, all the time. So, I think the music changes and it stays constant at the same time. It's sort of like a human being, I suppose."

Stereolab perform at the Theater of Young Spectators (TYuZ) on July 16, at 7 p.m. Links:

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