Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Indie Rock
As Laetitia Sadier’s new solo effort Silencio opens with the breezy strains of “The Rule of the Game” set against such lyrical invectives as, “The ruling class again neglects responsibility,” it’s a relief to know that the Stereolab ideological mission has not been needlessly aborted. Indeed, Mlle. Sadier builds here on their utterly singular model of retro-futuro socialist Europa pop to stunning effect: all swelling organs, Teutonic strings and scathing political diatribes delivered in her winsome, insouciant vocal style.
LAETITIA SADIER plays the Drake Underground on September 18. See listing. Rating: NNNN Throughout Laetitia Sadier's career with Stereolab, she's made an art of pronouncing each word as individual syllables, forcing us to pay attention or just accept her voice as an instrument providing counterbalance to the Moogs and guitars bubbling up around it. Nothing's changed on her second solo album, including the fact that she still sings with stinging precision about politics and the state of the world, in both English and her native French.
For any film buff, the title of Laetitia Sadier's second solo LP since Stereolab went on indefinite hiatus may hold an immediate connotation of the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. More specifically, Club Silencio, the dank cabaret club where a mysterious figure urges to the protagonists, "There is no band," although an act is playing a gorgeous version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" sung in Spanish in plain sight. The scene brilliantly probes incorporeal dimensions beyond human comprehension, and Sadier elliptically extrapolates from this sentiment throughout the excellent Silencio, calling into question the smoke and mirrors game vis-à-vis the IMF, hedge fund wizards, the Arab Spring revolution, and Marxism—essentially the issues she's obsessed over since the inception of Stereolab.
Laetitia SadierSilencio[Drag City; 2012]By Jay Lancaster; August 30, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetI remember occupying Wall Street for a day, back when the whole movement still seemed viable and unifying to me. I trekked down with some college friends for the Times Square march, where some 20,000 people converged in peaceful protest. After hours of marching and chanting and signholding, we made it to our destination.
Laetitia Sadier’s career has been nothing if not consistent. In its two decades together, her former band, Stereolab, was as steady and reliable as any group in the alt-rock era, hardly ever straying from its trademark futurist sound and almost always realizing its utopian-pop vision with a high level of creativity and quality. What’s more, Stereolab was unwavering in its commitment to using its pop culture platform to articulate a lefty political consciousness, espousing the same beliefs when it was on its way up, while it was a zeitgeist-defining act in the mid-‘90s, and after it was past its prime.
In Jean Renoir’s film, La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game), there’s a scene where the character Marquis Robert de la Cheyniest (played by an amazing Marcel Dalio) presents a crowd with one of his “acquisitions:” a mechanized toy playing a sort of march or music associated with child-themed amusement parks. In this scene, the bourgeois character is portrayed in arrested development, utilizing his wealth and privilege to dedicate himself as a collector of automated toys. The crowd of like-minded peers before him cheers exuberantly.
On Stereolab's 1994 single "Ping Pong", 60s French lounge music and Farfisa organ lent a retro patina to singer/lyricist Laetitia Sadier's Marxist commentary on capitalist boom/bust cycles, which she rendered with a thick layer of irony. "You see the recovery always comes 'round again/ There's nothing to worry for things will look after themselves," cooed the woman born in Paris in May 1968, playing tongue-in-cheek about capitalism's invisible hand. Six years later, when pets.com was put down by the dot-com bubble's burst, things looked bad.
“Lightning Thunderbolt” is the track you’re looking for, if you’re curious how far Laetitia Sadier could possibly get from her decades-long outfit Stereolab. Over pensive acoustic guitar and either real or fake flute solos, she sings about fires and shimmering spirits, sounding for all the world like a take on something from Beck’s Sea Change. The thing is, solo album or no solo album, Sadier will never be a traditional songwriter, and fine as her voice is, her command isn’t out front enough for it to feel right reducing her to “singer.” She’s a texturalist, a sonic bricklayer, and if she’s writing tunes and nothing but, they’re groovy ones.
When an artist lives in the shadow of a great band, you can imagine that it takes a great deal of effort not to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to conform to fan expectations when that artist strikes out on their own, either because the band has disbanded or because the artist just feels a need to try something different. Laetitia Sadier is no stranger to these kinds of expectations. She made her name through the seminal electronic pop group Stereolab and its dozens of LPs, b-side collections, and musical minutiae of which the band was so especially fond.
One term that’s been thrown around to excess in reference to Stereolab is “background music”, although admittedly, whether it’s a dinner party or a study marathon, the band’s discography always delivers in this regard. While their breezy pop approach to krautrock does work remarkably well as the soundtrack to a variety of occasions, Stereolab consistently offered rewards for the more attentive listener — until the band on indefinite hiatus in 2009. Just like her work with Stereolab, frontwoman Laetitia Sadier continues to reflect that signature style on her second solo album, Silencio.
Laetitia Sadier's first solo album, The Trip, centered around accepting the loss of her sister, but Silencio's focus is more global, and yet more intimate. Inspired by a profound moment of silence Sadier experienced in a medieval Spanish city filled with churches, the album finds her slowly but surely evolving Stereolab's style into her own thoughtful version of singer/songwriter pop. There's a newfound directness and intimacy on the largely spoken word "Moi Sans Zach" and the other songs in Sadier's native tongue, but most strikingly on Silencio's many political moments.
While it might not quite be an elephant in the room, it's impossible to get past the fact that Laetitia Sadier was the voice of Stereolab for a long, long time. Therefore, it isn't surprising that her second solo album reflects those years, although it does so without resorting to simply recycling old ideas. Not hearing from Stereolab (currently on an indefinite hiatus) for a while works to her advantage, as it brings freshness to Silencio, even though there's no mistaking who's singing.
This second solo LP makes politics sound like the sexiest thing in the world. Garry Mulholland 2012 Angry music generally sounds… well, angry. But perhaps that’s not the most useful way for protest to be expressed. Maybe it would be more welcoming and inspiring to a greater number of oppressed people if politicised anger sounded like beauty, sex and love.
Jean Renoir’s 1939 film The Rules Of The Game observes the class hierarchy of a French country home by examining both the bourgeoisie and the staff of the estate. It’s a funny and deeply sad movie that conjures much of its power from its ability to toggle between the perspectives of each character, often in a single long take. On “The Rule Of The Game,” the first track of her second solo album, Silencio, former Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier describes the ruling class by saying they are “drawn to cruel games, pointless pleasures, impulsive reflexes.