Stereolab's new album is both difficult and very likable. Clocking in at a whopping 75 minutes, "Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night" accumulates layer upon layer of bubbly space-age keyboards. It's light years beyond 1997's "Dots and Loops," on which Stereolab began exploring sampling and looping rather than writing songs the old-fashioned way.
Unfortunately, the group's whimsical bop sometimes gets lost amid the experimentation. "Infinity Girl" and "Blips Drips and Strips" are among the toe-tapping numbers that feature bouncing xylophones, Farfisa organ vamps, shuffling beats and la-la-la choruses. Yet drawn-out songs like "Blue Milk" and "Caleidoscopic Gaze" voyage out into deep space, never to be heard from again. While distinct and highly innovative, Stereolab has always been about fun. After all, as Laetitia Sadier sings on "The Free Design," "What is our earthly task but a worthy design?"