Margerine Eclipse, the latest from English-French groove outfit Stereolab, offers the same pleasure as a handful of the band's most recent albums: meticulously manicured sounds carefully assembled into songs that exist principally to showcase their constituent parts. The band's members don't seem entirely comfortable with this fact, since they're always telling interviewers not from Moog Monthly about changes in their recording process or new modes of composition. (Eclipse does reflect one genuine shift--the absence of singer/guitarist Mary Hansen, who was killed in a 2002 bike accident in London. Hansen's vocal counterpoint with lead singer Laetitia Sadier had long been one of the band's signatures, and here there's a thin film of melancholy coating Sadier's solo melodies.) Stereolab should be comfortable with its consistency, though. New, finely detailed songs like "Vonal Declosion" and "Feel and Triple" (a lilting Hansen farewell) demonstrate how satisfyingly deeply the band has dug into its creative furrow, and live the group still grooves like no other English-French act going. Openers Mice Parade--really a guy named Adam Pierce and whoever he can get to help him--are less steady. The new Obrigado Saudade introduces flavors of South American popi nto Pierce's post-rock alloy.
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Mikael Wood