I always had an innate affinity with outsider bands/artists who ploughed their own furrow. Those bands who bent the established rules for their own particular ends. Bands like The Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators, Roxy Music, The Fall, Pere Ubu, etc. Artists such as Erik Satie, Les Baxter, Brian Eno, Scott Walker, David Bowie, etc. They seemed to speak directly to me, to impart some special, secret, occult knowledge, something quite otherworldly.
Stereolab belong to this group of outsider bands and hold a very special place in my heart. Their image had a collective, impish invisibility to it that belied their serious intent from day one. Their sound would bring us the future dressed in fabrics from the past. Their legacy and immense discography is one of restless development coupled with a dogged refinement of their aesthetic.
Luckily it has been documented over the years in a series of compilations under the Switched On banner. These compilations bring together rare tour singles and rarities and even though the tracks are gathered from different time periods they merge together as cohesive albums just as much as their legitimate full length counterparts: such is the consistency of the bands vision.
The last couple of years have seen the release of beautiful re-masters of most of the band’s back catalogue (essential purchases for anyone in my humble opinion), packed with extras and rarities in their own right. This has obviously led to more discoveries in the vaults and to the release of Electrically Possessed: Switched On Vol.4.
Twenty five tracks over two CDs, or three vinyl records, starting with the complete, brilliant, long out of print First Of The Microbe Hunters mini-album from 2000 which delivers not only their usual take on the propellant Neu! / Dinger Apache beat, but also heavy doses of Baxter Exotica.
Alongside this we get the usual selection of rare tour 7” single releases, album outtakes and the wonderful 1999 collaboration with Brigitte Fontaine, Calimero (originally a shared single with ‘Lab singer Laetitia Sadiers other band Monade).
The usual beautifully crafted pop songs the band are so much loved for are here in abundance. The locked grooves and playful experimentation too. All in all, a veritable feast for the ears.
As with everything they have ever recorded the sonic quality of the recordings are pristine and almost hallucinogenic: like Esquivel on mescaline.
With the band reactivated after the re-releases, here’s hoping new material is in the pipeline.
And hopefully we will see a volume five in this magnificent series of compilations.
David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer
Electrically Possessed: Switched On Vol.4 is out now via Duophonic UHF Disks. Purchase from Bandcamp.