Aluminum Tunes: Switched On, Vol. 3

by: Stereolab

Stereolab's Switched On series is ingenious, one of the best services a band has performed for its fans. Since their inception, Stereolab have made it a practice to release non-LP singles, tour 7"s, split singles, special-edition EPs -- recordings that were available in small quantities for a limited time. In every case, the limited-edition recordings become very valuable very quickly, often reaching ridiculously exorbitant prices that most fans could never afford. That's where the Switched On series comes in. It's where the group gathers the best of these rarities, leaving a couple of tracks on the original single for the sake of collectibility. Stereolab may do certain projects as a lark, but they rarely throw away tracks, as each EP and most singles have their own identity, offering a new spin on the group's trademark style. Given that Aluminum Tunes: Switched On, Vol. 3 spans two discs, it might seem that the compilation will only be of interest to diehards, but it rivals Refried Ectoplasm: Switched On, Vol. 2 in terms of creativity and consistency. Aluminum Tunes is distinguished by the first wide release of the entire sublime easy listening EP Music for the Amorphous Body Center, which would be enough to make the compilation essential for all fans, but it also has such minor masterpieces as their swinging duet with Herbie Mann on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba," Wagon Christ's remix of "Metronomic Underground," the horn-spiked "Percolations," and "You Used to Call Me Sadness." There may be a couple of tracks that never rise above the level of good but predictable Stereolab, but the best moments rank among their very best work. Quite simply an essential addition to their catalog. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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