Laetitia Sadier Laetitia SadierThe Trip
Until we hear “Not Music”, Stereolab’s new LP that will come out in the middle of November, we won’t know to what extent “The Trip” is a conservative or an audacious movement from Laetitia Sadier. Essentially, this solo album outside of the band’s discipline—and which therefore seeks a space of freedom to develop ideas that wouldn’t have all of the space that they require if they were subject to the entire group’s vote—doesn’t sound very different from what Stereolab has been doing lately, so it’s logical to wonder whether Laetitia really needed to work on her own for awhile. What she did with Monade had its logic –although it was material inferior to that of Stereolab– but here we find ourselves before a stage that doesn’t surprise at all. “The Trip” is like a Stereolab album in which the kraut influence has been toned down and that of French pop has been heightened. It’s not only that you recognise the band because the voice is the same, but because the type of songs and instrumentation is very similar. “The Trip” is more acoustic, and the other is more synthesised, but there is definitely no change in the paradigm.
Therefore, Laetitia Sadier’s need should be understood in the sense that a phase of fruitful creativity requires ways of liberating the material that she has been writing. There are nine songs here –plus three interludes– that could have been material for “Not Music” or any future Stereolab album, but which for whatever reason don’t fit in. It might be that Sadier considers them to be so personal that the only way to give them sentimental coherence is to put them out under her own name. This is a possibility, because the idea that they are discards, let me repeat, is clearly out. This is good material; these are inspired songs that remind us continually that Sadier is a majestic composer of pop capsules, that she has the gift of song beyond the good idea of wrapping them up in retro packaging. The start-off with “One Million Year Trip” –articulated around a motorik rhythm from the Neu! school throws us off at first: if it had a little more noise and distortion, it could have even been an homage to the classic “Emperor Tomato Ketchup”– but after that, the album bases itself on the premise of maximum purity. The guidelines of the rest of the album are set out in the following song, “Fluid Sand”: it is acoustic, with organic percussion, slide guitars, keyboards that basically add colour, but which don’t interfere in the final result. Although at the end of this song the rhythmic pattern accelerates, the entire album has a restful, vacation-like tempo, it is lazy, and at times it aspires to be a nod to Brazilian tropicalia ( “Natural Child”), sung in English and French, or a return to one of the periods that most occupy the Stereolab faction - the 60’s space age, experiments with stereo, and cocktail music.
Once again, there is nothing surprising. “The Trip” is entirely comprehensible within the Stereolab setting, and it doesn’t disturb any work dynamic. What should be a surprise is “Not Music”, for the reason we mentioned before: what is changing so much that it has led Laetitia Sadier to take a few personal weeks off to slow-cook this easy-listening curiosity? But I think I know the answer, since there is no mystery at the bottom of this issue. It’s a diversion, a rest, a candy, and it shouldn’t be given any greater importance than it has. Once you have accepted that, the songs feel like a gentle breeze on your face, a feeling which departs as quickly as it has come, without bothering you, leaving behind a pleasant feeling.
Tom MadsenLaetitia Sadier - By The Sea