ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions

by: Stereolab

ABC Music, the two-disc, 32-track compilation of Stereolab's BBC Radio 1 sessions from July 1991 to August 2001, is a surprisingly illuminating and listenable set. Although this may come as a shock to some casual listeners, Stereolab can be a ferocious live band, and their trademark blend of Krautrock, easy listening, and Brazilian influences (in different proportions throughout their career) usually has an added aggressiveness in a live setting. This is particularly apparent on the earliest tracks, including an outstanding version of their early signature tune "Super Electric" on which the Neu!-like motorik pulse is buttressed by some almost punky guitar work by co-leader Tim Gane. Several tracks appear in embryonic versions, with a very different early take of "Seeperbold" called "Working Title (The Pram Song)" of particular interest. The familiar songs tend to sound more stripped-down here; "International Colouring Contest" loses its samba-like beat but gains a more heartfelt vocal from Laetitia Sadier, who also steps away from her usual deadpan on glorious revisions of the rarity "Brigitte" and the 1996 single "Cybele's Reverie," which sounds just as catchy and propulsive without the studio version's full orchestral setting. ABC Music is probably not the place to start for the complete Stereolab novice, but any fan will be impressed. ~ Stewart Mason

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