Those who scour record bins for obscure jewels have likely changed some over the past 15 years. Sure, there are some unnervingly pure collectors left, those who stick to vinyl religiously and practice all kinds of impressive upkeep and organization.
For the rest of us, though, mixed tapes have probably turned to mixed CD-Rs, and trips to the music store have been undone by a few hours of downloading. Most shameful of all, our Stereolab albums were probably burned from a friend's copy, and now rest in the stereo with only sloppy Sharpie scribbles for a label.
But 15 years into their existence, Stereolab seems amazingly unmoved by the changed, more cluttered landscape. Their signature sound Tim Gane's hypnotizing, lounged-out keyboard drones underpinning vocalist Laetitia Sadier's ultra-sophisticated socialist lyrics and French accent is still intact and evolving.
Plus, they're still treating fans to a smorgasbord of LPs, singles, EPs and B-sides, all packaged in the highest taste and always working to subvert the predictability of the music industry.
"I think that I knew from the very early days that the music that we made came from a record-fan point of view, in that the music was very connected to the way it was presented: the covers, the sleeves, the format of the record, even the color of the record," Gane says by phone from San Francisco.
Their latest release, out this week, is Fab Four Suture. A collection of singles from last year is anchored by some new tracks and buzzes with the energy of an inspired band.
"I often get asked the question, "Oh, is it difficult to do stuff after all these years, to have the weight of all the things you've done in the past on you?'" Gane says. "And I say, "No, it's completely irrelevant what we've done in the past, or how long we've been doing it. When you've got an idea and you are working with it, it all starts again, and it's all new.'"
One of Gane's new ideas has been to incorporate computers into Stereolab's recording process. "Kybernetcika Babicka" is the most noticeably PC-altered song on the new release. The track is an insistent, pulsing choral march, which, Gane says, involved cutting up "one bar of a '60s sing-along track" into 32 sections and looping it eight times, among other tweaks.
"That was totally different for me ... from the writing process. But obviously, from the listening process, perhaps people couldn't tell, you know. Whatever we do sort of seems to sound, you know, like Stereolab," he explains, laughing.
And Stereolab sounding like Stereolab is what thousands are eagerly anticipating on this month-long American tour. Gane has set high standards, as usual.
"I'm really against all kinds of contrivance," he says. "So, I really like just throwing the elements together, and how they come out is how they come out. And this is an approach that I think is quite important. I really don't like to contrive anything to achieve a specific purpose, and I always like things that I can't quite put my finger on why I like them."
Stereolab with Hot Chip
3263 S. Broadway, Englewood
Thursday, March 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $16, all ages; call 800/965-4827 or visit nipp.com.