Stereolab - Lo-Fi EP (1992)

Often overlooked amidst the flurry of early Stereolab releases, the four-song Low Fi in many respects represents the zenith of the group's original incarnation--it's wonderfully emblematic of the clamoring, analog-crunchy drone-pop that cemented their enduring reputation as critical favorites. The indisputable highlight is "Laisser-Faire," a pulsating and eerily prescient meditation on U.S. foreign policy that concludes "I can feel it more and more/Within ten years we'll have a war"--rarely have Laetitita Sadier's vocals resonated with more resigned beauty or Tim Gane's guitar slashed with more righteous anger. The title cut is no less compelling, and marks the first recorded appearance of the late Mary Hansen: her "ba-da-bum" harmonies immediately prove the perfect counterpoint to Sadier's cooler, more sophisticated lead. And on the closing "Elektro (he held the world in his iron grip)," the Lab spans the extremes of their continuum--after some three minutes of bubbling, mad-scientist noise, the song gives way to a sweet, simple acoustic performance as lovely as anything they've ever created.

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