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Hologram Teen: Ex-Stereolab Synth Wizardess Morgane Lhote’s Satanic Feline Disco Party

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Between 1996 and 1999, during an uncommon period of stability in their line-up, the Marxist krautrock inspired Stereolab released a highly influential string of albums including ‘Emperor Tomato Ketchup’ ‘Dots and Loops’ and ‘Cobra and Phase’. This blast of creativity culminated in their receiving a 0/10 review in the UK’s music paper the NME. What this vitriolic and tasteless review exposed was how polarising a band Stereolab had become. They had shifted the ‘Overton window’ of what was permitted by a 90’s indie guitar band so far to the left-field that it was seen as fair game for the musical establishment to want to knock them down. To many though this period was a high point of their career. Today you will still hear the likes of Bradford Cox of Deerhunter waxing lyrical about tracks from this seminal run of albums.

At the heart of their creativeness was the song-writing of Gane / Sadier which by the mid-90’s had moved away from their guitar-lead background, to a one equally inspired by library, muzak, jazz and exotica. This sound was complemented by a relatively stable line up which toured intensely, especially in the States. Stereolab finally felt like a proper band rather than just a Gane / Sadier rolling project. At the front of this line-up was the engaging combination of Mary Hanson on guitar and backing vocals and Morgane Lhote on synths and farfisa.

It was an incredibly influential period with their reach stretching across genres, influencing the next wave of indie bands such as Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem and The Postal Service as well as dance and rap artists. The crowning moment was when Common on his ‘Electric Circus’ album featured the four core members of the band on its ‘Sgt Pepper’ inspired sleeve along with a track sung by Sadier.

Following the release of 2001s ‘Sound Dust,’ recorded in Chicago, Lhote left the band. Her reasons for leaving fans still do not know, but the sleeve notes would suggest that she was side-lined from the sessions. ‘Sound Dust’ although strong in places felt like the continuation of a formula rather than a next step. And, following the tragic death of Hansen, the band were understandably never the same again.

Lhote surfaced a few years later in a London indie band called The Projects, contributing her keyboard wizardry to their debut album ‘Lets Get Static’ and the ‘Voice is Glue’ EP which featured an inventive Broadcast remix, she was also briefly in the band Garden with members of Simian Mobile Disco.

Her first release under the moniker Hologram Teen surfaced in 2015 on the Deep Distance label. The single ‘Post-Apoclypteacakes’ sat somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and ‘Dawn of the Dead’. Its creepy electronics were evocative of Italian progressive rock-synthesists Goblin and saw Hologram Teen labelled as ‘disco horror soundtrack,’ like a techno re-imagining of the hauntology sound championed by Ghostbox Record.

Her sophomore effort takes the Hologram Teen sound a step forward. Available on both a pink vinyl 7” and as a digital four track EP it is released on Happy Robots Records from the UK. Where the front cover of the 7” depicts a Jetson-like cartoon family dancing their way through space, the flip features four eyed Satanic cat creatures singing to the devil. This is a colourful but bizarre world.

The music does not disappoint either. The lead track ‘Marsangst’ opens with uplifting chords that would not sound out of place on a Deadmau5 record. When the rhythm kicks in echoed vocals swirl around, you are reminded of Etienne de’Crecy’s seminal French-house masterwork ‘Super Discount.’ It is thumping, uplifting, epic stuff.

The next track ‘Hex These Rules’ is an even more enjoyable ride. More 80’s in feel, yet without the clichés heard in many acts that re-tread the retro sound. The opening synth is reminiscent of Vince Clarke’s minimal mastery and the octave jump bass line has much of the Blue Monday about it. Elvish vocal samples bounce around the speakers until a wild interjection of what sounds like a fervent Evangelical Pastor mid-flow. It is delightful stuff, inventive and entertaining in equal measure. It could not be further removed from the Stereolab sound, yet the influence of Lhote’s former band can be felt in its sheer inventiveness

As for the extra tracks on the EP, ‘Scratches en Série’ adds a funky hip hop flavour to the mix while retaining the playful Hologram Teen elements. And the final track ‘Franmaster Glash’ sees a return to the more soundtracky elements, like a John Carpenter number reimagined on Ladytron’s 604.

For Stereolab fans we in the midst of a musical renaissance. As a solo artist Laetitia Sadier has found her calling; her current stripped down live shows and solo releases are the perfect platform for her emotive, poignant, political lyrics. With his Cavern of Anti-Matter project, Tim Gane has also found his mojo; the tectonic three-piece delivering in the ‘Void Beats / Invocation Trex’ album the sort of gritty electronic krautrock that fans of the genre have been longing for.

This Hologram Teen release maintains the same level of quality set by her former paymasters, by doing something unexpected and fresh within the electronic pop formula. It is its refusal to be tied down that makes this record such a darkly inventive curiosity and such an enjoyable ride.

Hologram Teen

‘Marsangst / Hex These Rules’ 7” single limited to 300 copies on pink vinyl.

‘Marsangst EP’ available from major digital outlets. August 5th.

Available from Happy Robots Records (Bot7)

Distributed by Cargo Records