Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Dots and Loops?

Why is Stereolab's 1997 release Dots and Loops my third favorite album of all-time?

  • It makes my heart soar with joy and good nature. There are very few albums that have this effect on me. From the first time I ever heard Dots and Loops (a brother loaned it to me back around 1999 and I've never given it back) I have absolutely loved the music here. From the stuttering radio-tuning noises of "Brakhage," to the funky bass, horns, strumming acoustic guitars and playful b-vox of "Miss Modular" ("Ooey-Gooey" we always called it), to the Burt Bacharach sounds accompanying the strumming guitar and slide lead guitar solo in "A Flower Called Nowhere," the methodical, jazz-trip-hoppy drum symposium of  "Diagonals," through the catchy bass and vocal chord sequences, amazingly beautiful French chorus and awesomely sparse background Farfisa organ of "Prisoner of Mars," to the incredibly exciting build of tension and hypnotic guitar strumming, bass, drum and xylophone play throughout "Rainbo Conversation" (my favorite song on the album), through the 17 and-a-half minute long psychedelic-cinematic journey of "Refractions in the Plastic Pulse," to the KOOP-like smokey jazz bass, organ and drums in the first half and astonishing (and ingenious) shift back to Burt Bacharach land for the second half of "Contronatura," to the BARK PSYCHOSIS-like drum rampage and catchy cheesy-organ chord sequence through the finale, "Parsec," Dots and Loops takes me on a musical journey like no other: full of adrenaline rushes, lots of smiles of amusement and astonishment, and pure aural pleasure.
  • The unusual mix of sounds with TORTOISE's John McEntire's array of tuned percussion (synthesizer, percussion, vibraphone, marimba).
  • The brilliant "unusual sounds" and sound effects contributed by MOUSE ON MARS members, Andi Toma and Jan St. Wermer.
  • The ancient keyboards! including Sean O'Hagan on Farfisa organ and Fender Rhodes piano.
  • The acoustic guitar work. About half of the songs are blessed with wild strumming on six- or 12-string guitars that make you want to get up and play along!
  • The odd sounds coming from the drum section:  odd rhythms, jazzy, trip-hoppy, electronic sounding, yet man-made. (Kudos, Andy Ramsay!)
  • The bouncy, upbeat female background vocals throughout.
  • I'm a sucker for female singers singing in French.
  • The overall upbeat, lightness of the music. The lounge and Burt Bacharach-type of pop influences are quite blatant but never nerdy or straight rip-offs; just brilliant and refreshing. Like Swing Out Sister on a psychedelic drug trip.
  • The consistency from start to finish. There is only one song on Dots and Loops that I don't rate with either a nine- or ten-out-of-ten.
  • It was a favorite of my daughters when they were pre-teens.

In my opinion, Dots and Loops is the greatest "Post Rock" album ever made, better than Bark Psychosis' Hex and ///Code Name: Dust Sucker, Ulver's Shadows of the Sun, sleepmakeswaves' ..and so we destroyed everything... or God Is An Astronaut's All Is Violent, All Is Bright. Even better than David Sylvian's music, which I consider the very first "Post Rock" music.

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