But don't expect grand insights into Stereolab's writing process. These are not jam sessions. The songs contained herein were fully conceived by the time they were recorded. They do, however, retain the grit of preproduction -- the album's most enjoyable quality. As a group whose music tends to get a lot of studio polish, Stereolab is not often considered a musician's band. Listening to the blips and beeps of, say, 1997's Dots and Loops, the group sounds more like PC-wielding technicians than humans with instruments. But ABC reminds us that Stereolab's music does not come from the ether but is rather produced by musicians -- damn good ones too. Even such computer-generated songs as 1996's "Les Yper-Sound" get infused with new life. So it's Stereolab Unplugged, as it were -- always a sure test of a band's mettle -- and the group, once again, proves worth its salt.
Finally, ABC Music has the sad distinction of being Mary Hansen's last. The Australian guitarist and vocalist, who had been with the group since 1992, died in a London bike accident in December.