England’s Stereolab provide the perfect model for how a band becomes more than the sum of its influences. They combined the static, hypnotic grooves first crafted by the German band Neu, the churning strumfests of the Velvet Underground, the primitive, wheezing synthesizers employed by other important Krautrock outfits like Cluster and Kraftwerk, and an incongruous distillation of exotica (that 50s equivalent of easy listening) and boldly drove this idiosyncratic mix into pop terrain. Last year’s superb Mars Audiac Quintet (Elektra) was something of a zenith: the heavenly melodies and bubbly singsong harmonies of Laetitia Sadier and Mary Hansen floated over the impenetrable, trance-inducing grooves spun by guitarist Tim Gane, bassist Duncan Brown, and drummer Andy Ramsay. Now that American Records has reissued a pair of the group’s earlier, less sophisticated works–Peng! and Space Age Bachelor Pad Music–the ground Stereolab has covered in its relatively short career becomes even more impressive. On a recent import-only EP, Music for the Amorphous Body Study Center (Duophonic), melodies lilt with more grace than ever, but at the same time weird, gurgling synth sounds and off-kilter rhythmic schemes weave tension into the whole. The band’s in town to record with John McEntire at Idful, so one would guess that this pair of gigs will offer a preview of the forthcoming album. Tortoise, who released a terrific single on Stereolab’s Duophonic label earlier this year, open. Monday, 7 and 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.