Stereolab, “Robot Riot” (Duophonic UHF Disks/Warp)
Dating back to its first volume in 1992, Stereolab's vaunted Switched On series of odds-and-ends compilations have contained some of Anglo-Franco group's most interesting material. The fifth and possibly final volume of these enlightening compendia of rarities, Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On Volume 5, drops September 2, and it possesses some true gems—all of them remastered by Bo Kondren.
For example, if you missed Stereolab's ultra-rare 1997 collaboration with avant-garde weirdoes Nurse With Wound, Simple Headphone Mind, now's your chance to make amends. Its two long tracks encompass Stereolab's most psychedelic moments, as they and NWW adorn klassik motorik chug with a panoply of synapse-frying synth frippery, Michael Rother-esque guitar ululations, and some of the most zonked vocal discombobulation ever waxed.
Pulse also gathers the four cuts from the rare 1992 Low Fi EP, which flaunts the exhilarating rhythmic rush of Modern Lovers' “Roadrunner,” Lætitia Sadier's charming sing-songy vocals, and compelling droniness of their early days, plus other esoterica whose constituent parts would cost you a fortune to obtain. Switched on Volume 5 reiterates for the umpteenth time that Stereolab rank among history's foremost assimilators of sonic coolness: Velvet Underground, Neu!, Tropicália, yé-yé, Beach Boys ca. Pet Sounds, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, etc.
“Robot Riot” is that rarest of artifacts: a previously unreleased Stereolab track. It was recorded to accompany sculptures made by Charles Long, with whom Stereolab collaborated on the Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center project. The song's structure and vibe will be familiar to 'lab diehards, but that doesn't make this buoyant, midtempo charmer any less treasurable. With Sadier's suave French elocutions bobbing over chiming guitar chatter and bubbly Neu! ca. “Hallogallo” rhythms, “Robot Riot” is a cruise-control joy from the most remote corner of Stereolab's vast archive.
Stereolab plays at the Showbox at the Market on Sun Sept 25.
Coil, “Tunnel of Goats” (Dais)
Although often classified as goth, industrial, electro, and/or drone, the music of the defunct British collective Coil ultimately is its own genre—an elixir composed of those styles that's alchemized into a sound that's utterly other. They adapted genres only to twist them into singular magick rituals that are at once hypnotic and disorienting, an obsession with transcendent gay sex throbbing at its core.
Powered by the perverse imaginations of the two founders—the late Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson (ex-Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV) and the equally late John Balance (ex-Psychic TV), plus crucial contributions from Stephen Thrower, Drew McDowell, Ossian Brown, Thighpaulsandra, and others—Coil plowed an uncompromising path that gained them a worshipful cult following, including famous fans such as Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Ministry's Al Jourgensen.
Originally released in 2000, Constant Shallowness Leads to Evil is being reissued on Aug. 12 as part of Dais Records' righteous, years-long campaign to keep Coil's elusive and important catalog in print. The record stands as one of Coil's most abstract and lysergic works, even more tonally extreme and more atmospherically disturbing than its closest sonic kin, 2000's Time Machines, which they recorded under the Time Machines handle.
“Tunnel of Goats” is Constant Shallowness' epic closer and its most turbulent track. At nearly 28 minutes, it may seem like a war of attrition or simply a daunting prospect to endure, but “Tunnel of Goats”'s strident churn and tormented bird-in-a-windmill cries gradually coalesce into a staccato, staticky mantra. While Balance briefly engages in some liturgical singing of indecipherable words, the track scrapes all the bad juju from your mind like some sort of merciless, occult brain surgery. The phenomenon at play here resembles how we become accustomed to an air-raid siren as it drones on and on, until it morphs into soothing ambience, a mind-cleansing balm.