Laetitia Sadier - Silencio
Laetitia Sadier is best known as the distinctive voice of Stereolab, who have been on hiatus since 2009. Silencio is actually the second album to bear her name, following on from 2010's lo-fi, experimental The Trip.
Silencio has a lighter touch than some of the Stereolab records, although a lot of their trademark sounds are here. Moogs, oscillators, and the influence of bossanova, exotic easy listening and Krautrock are all very much in evidence, and in fact the other founding member of the 'Lab, Tim Gane, guests on guitar. One other striking similarity with Stereolab's work is the juxtaposition of luscious, intricately arranged music with explicitly socialist lyrics. This is political protest music made pretty.
Opening track 'The Rules of the Game' has a space-age lounge feel. It is a gentle tune set against a wordy tirade against the ruling classes, which speeds up towards the end - another familiar Stereolab trick. The lyrics are very subtle and to be honest the message can actually miss you if you aren't listening closely enough.
'Find Me the Pulse of the Universe' is lush and acoustic, 'Lightning Thunderbolt' is full of dreamy, spacey sounds, and 'Silent Spot' is atmospheric. It is possible that this is one of the warmest and most sensuous records Sadier has put her name to.
'Auscultation to the Nation' (I'm not ashamed to say I had to look that one up – it means the term for listening to the internal sounds of the body, usually using a stethoscope) spells out why the G20 and large financial institutions are illegitimate against a jangly up-tempo backing, before breaking into an extended coda of arresting electronic noise.
'Between Earth and Heaven' is not unlike the samba influenced moments of Stereolab, and 'Fragment Pour Le Future De L'Homme' is actually sung in English and is a delightful multi-layered slice of funk and analog synths, whilst 'Merci De M'Avoir Donne' manages to remind me of Serge Gainsbourg and 808 State at the same time. 'Next Time You See Me' is a great little slice of 60s influenced pop, complete with some of Laetitia's distinctive "ba-ba-ba" refrains.
The closing 'Invitation Au Silence' is something original, Laetitia's voice is double-tracked – one is English and whispered, the other is a French translation and coated in reverb. There is no music and it ends with a minute of "silence" recorded inside a church in the south of France. "Listen how resonant with truth silence is," are the last words that she speaks on the album.
Silencio is much more than a side project, and it actually fills the gap left by Stereolab very well. It does sound like them so much, I wonder why it hasn't been released under their name. Unlike classic Stereolab however, this album does lack the strong tunes to hook the listener in. There are a couple of songs that just pass me by, and it took me quite a few listens before the stand-out tracks really grabbed me. There is still much to admire and lose yourself in, and in this age when a lot of bands are steering clear of politics, I'm glad to hear Sadier remaining true to her original blueprint of intelligent socialist pop.