Boomkat Product Review:
Expanded edition of Dots & Loops, Stereolab’s fifth studio album and for our money their best. It was the first Stereolab album to mostly ditch the motorik/Neu! obsessions that had been a trademark since their inception; instead the sound here is dominated by odd time signatures wrapped in electronic, lounge and jazz textures, once again produced by Tortoise maverick John McEntire, with Mouse on Mars taking over duties on three of the tracks to showcase the band's most complex set of recordings to date. Remastered from original tapes, this new expanded edition includes a bonus disk of unreleased demos, outtakes and alternate mixes - which serve to highlight just how great the songs on this album are. Stripped of all the studio trickery, they still hold up - they hold up very well.
22 years old and Dots & Loops still sounds like a defining album of its era. Released in 1997, it found the band’s motorik fascinations upended by mostly electronic, loop-based foundations, in places augmented by echoes of Tropicalia and Sean O’Hagan’s psychedelic Farfisa. It’s an album that’s both exotic and rooted in the everyday detail with which they made their name over the previous decade - with that growing electronic dimension joining dots between their kraut roots, Pharrell /Timbaland and the more complex electronic music of the day typified by Autechre, Aphex, Mouse on Mars and so on.
Recorded in Chicago and Düsseldorf, Dots & Loops bridges a unique American-Euro influence - Bossa Nova and ’60s Euro pop are still major touchstones - imbuing proceedings with a deceptively light feel; while further listens reveal an elaborate work, with almost every track featuring complicated and layered arrangements. “Parsec” is space-rock meets drum and bass; “Brakhage” marries a minor key bass line to clinking vibes and a shuffling beat; the segmented, 20-minute “Refractions in the Plastic Pulse” is sunny and appealing, yet intricately constructed.
The dividing line between the band’s first phase and what would be its more experimental latter period, Dots & Loops is an intricately woven and complex masterpiece that's somehow breezy and evocative, like nothing else.