20 years deep and now veterans of the post-rock, indie-subversive explosion, Stereolab's prolific song output has always cycled around a familiar platform. Elegantly manipulating the 'motorik' beat of Kraftwerk and early electronica into something far kinder -- adding a flair for drone, lounge-pop and highlighted female vocals -- they crafted their own game-plan quite some time ago. When the old formula still works, as on "Everybody's Weird Except Me," the result is like a sacred hymn of a functional system -- like the soundtrack to Brazil if it had been a daydream rather than a nightmare. But not all the formulaic players can overcome the occasionally redundant benignity, and thus the best moments on Not Music arrive when the band takes you by surprise.
The first real switch comes on "Equivalences," a dark and glitchy instrumental that finds the drums attacking in an equally welcome and somewhat unforeseen fashion.
"Two Finger Symphony" continues in this same manner of melodic, intelligent pop-funk, and both these tracks seem heavily inspired by a couple brilliant remixes on the album.
Never ones to leave a b-side hidden, the two biggest tracks on Not Music are actually vastly reworked cuts from 2008's Chemical Chords. Emperor Machine's ten-plus minute take on "Silver Sands" is an evolving and hypnotic assault of subverted backbeats, hitting a fresh dance pocket at the 6 minute mark that sounds like what you wish Daft Punk had made the Tron soundtrack sound like. Atlas Sound, aka Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, turns "Neon Beanbag" into a mesmeric digital cycle of atmospheric growth; a far cry from its office-friendly original. It doesn't even seem right to call this track a remix, as Cox's repetitive loop is tight enough to shed any resemblance of the initial melody. Much akin to songs on Deerhunter's Weird Era Continued, he's able to craft incredibly organic warmth out of intentional monotony.

A blind skip around Stereolab's catalogue will usually leave you in utter sequential confusion, but there's a drive to Not Music that more-than-ever finds the band attuned to the endless possibilities of today's sound. Either that, or the 20 year cycle of music has finally caught back up to what they've been doing all along. This latest album as usual, is the best way to get an overall introduction to the band. That is, until the next one comes along.