Stereolab Announce Deluxe Vinyl Reissues & Tour

English-French avant pop band Stereolab recently announced an extensive reissue series of seven of their albums, starting with 1993’s Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements and its 1994 follow-up Mars Audiac Quintet via Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks and Warp Records. Similar to last year’s reissues of Stereolab’s Switched On compilations, the albums are digitally remastered from the original ½” analog tapes by Bo Kondren at Calyx Mastering and supervised by Stereolab’s Tim Gane. These first two reissues will come out on May 2. Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Dots & Loops, and Cobra & Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night will be reissued in August while Sound-Dust and Margerine Eclipse arrive in November. Each album comes with a bonus disc of alternate takes, demos, and unreleased mixes.

“The Groop,” as they are known by fans, were formed in 1990 by guitarist/songwriter Tim Gane and singer/musician Lætitia Sadier. They signed to Elektra in 1993. After a 7 album run with the label the contract ran out. Stereolab went on hiatus in 2009. The band’s name comes from early Vanguard Records stereo demonstration LPs that bear the “Vanguard Stereolab” logo. In fact, their 1993 EP Space Age Bachelor Pad Music takes many design cues from those Vanguard LPs, and the 18-minute “Jenny Ondioline” from Transient Random Noise-Bursts With Announcements samples a 1969 Hi-Fi Sound test record. The artwork for Transient Random Noise-Bursts… is also heavily based on the cover of the Hi-Fi Sound test LP.

The 3LP vinyl sets (2LPs for the core album, 1LP for the bonus material) come in several editions: 500 copies on clear vinyl with an obi strip made from Stereolab’s 2” 24-track tapes, clear vinyl without the obi, and a standard black vinyl set. All vinyl editions of each album come with a WAV download, a fold-out poster, and are housed in “bespoke gatefold sleeves,” according to the website listings. Both editions of the clear vinyl include a lottery scratch-off card, with all winners receiving an exclusive 12” at the end of 2019. The clear vinyl with obi of both albums sold out within hours on the Duophonic UHF Disks web store, and the black vinyl of both was later restocked after temporarily showing “out of stock.”

In addition, limited 2CD sets (250 copies per album ) with the tape obi are also available along with a standard 2CD set. The 250 CD sets didn’t sell out nearly as fast as the 500 clear LPs with obi, cementing the compact disc’s status as a rapidly dying format. 24- and 16-bit WAV files will also be available on the physical release date.

The previously unreleased second mix of “French Disco” from the bonus disc of Transient Random Noise-Bursts & Announcements sounds promising despite the compressed, midrange-heavy recording. This version of “French Disco” extremely differs from the 1993 single (the third mix of this song) included on Refried Ectoplasm [Switched On Volume 2]; the latter is shorter and has a cleaner, airier sound than the rougher early arrangement.

This reissue series has been in the works since 2014. The band was extremely unhappy with the “1972” label’s CD-sourced vinyl reissues in 2012, but struggled for several years to obtain the rights to their Elektra-era material. I have the “1972” pressing of Dots & Loops and can attest to its poor quality. It sounds like I’m listening to it underwater, making it hard to appreciate the intricacies of the music.

Further, Stereolab announced a reunion tour of Europe, the UK, and the United States throughout this year. Their September show in El Paso, Texas will mark their first US concert in 11 years.

Here’s a few edited excerpts of Tim Gane’s insightful mastering note included in the reissues:

“As we started the project it became obvious that most of the tapes were showing signs of deterioration and some of the earliest ones were already at an advanced stage of decay and were actively shredding. They needed to be baked. Great care was taken during the baking of the tapes and no loss of sound quality is audible to me.

"The earliest tapes would not have withstood the stress put on them by a normal tape machine set up, with its high-tension mechanism and multi-head configuration. Plus, our ½” tapes needed to run at 30 inches per second. This increased tension would have most likely snapped the tape. As a solution, Bo commissioned a bespoke tape block which consists of a single playback head and a simple, no-tension tape guide. This allowed the tape to be simply held in place as it passed over the single head.

"Stereolab’s music can often be quite impenetrably dense in the midrange; there is lots of detail everywhere. We were both very keen to preserve this aspect of the sound and, at the same time, try to improve a little on resolution, spatiality, and depth.”

To order Mars-Audiac-Quintet (Expanded Edition) click here (it may say "sold out". If so, the album will still be available in stores).

To order Transient-Random-Noise-Bursts-With-Announcements (expanded edition) click here (again, it may say "sold out". If so, the album will still be available in stores).

Grant M's picture

Hope they press them somewhere good quality. it's kind of a shame they didn't go the analog path since they had the masters, and Calyx Mastering in Berlin apparently does cut from tape.

Prizing93's picture

Thanks for sharing such info.