Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night is Stereolab’s sixth studio album and a return to the poppier tendencies the band had left behind on their previous full-length, Dots and Loops. Where that album was an amalgam of often chilled, abstract electronica, prog and jazz, this work’s exotic pop features warm Moog textures, bursting horns and lush, layered vocals.
Co-producers John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake) and Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth, Gastr del Sol) add new wrinkles to Stereolab’s sound and deliver rich and expansive mixes. Their contributions to the album’s sonic deconstructions and analog keyboard textures present a radical model of pop-rock song architecture. Harmony and cacophony coexist throughout, wrapped up in the group’s familiar, mellow ’60s bossa-groove.
The arrangements incorporate Chicago post-rock, Sun Ra-styled free-form jazz and classic British acid-psych styles, while the songs return to the core melodic instincts of the band’s classic albums.
Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night ended a decade in which Stereolab constructed a singular vision of popular music. It completed a journey from the lo-fi fuzz of their early ’90s singles to the sophisticated and complex soundscapes of their more mature second phase. The result is an alluring collage of ’60s jazz, French pop and shimmery, ambient guitars, and an underrated piece of Stereolab’s oeuvre.