Dependable avant-pop from Anglo-French institution

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Stereolab – Margerine Eclipse

The death of Mary Hansen and the break-up of Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier’s long-term relationship would’ve been enough to destroy less resilient bands than Stereolab. But on this, their ninth full album, even an affectionate tribute to Hansen (“Feel And Triple”) is pulsating rather than maudlin. If anything, the prevailing tone is breezier than ever. It’s also the band’s most organic-sounding record since 1996’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup, with chamber pop, disco and (on the outstanding “Margerine Rock”) actual guitar rock thrown into the polychromatic blender. The problem is, when you’ve synthesised such an individual sound, it’s increasingly hard to transcend it:recent props from Pharrell Williams are more likely to lure newcomers into the clique than another reliably accomplished album like this.