Laetitia Sadier‘s side project Monade (pronounced as “Monard”) was originally a low key affair between the Stereolab singer and Rosie Cuckston of Pram. With the second album, however, Sadier takes the reins, with sole responsibility for composition, and is aided in the realisation with a much larger group of instrumentalists. The Stereolab legacy is very much in evidence but this is a vehicle in which Sadier sounds even more of a free spirit.
She continues to be an extremely prolific writer, and remains capable of discovering ever more timbres and pop subtleties. And all the time her ideas sound fresh, breezy and full of life. The opening of A Few Steps More is a case in point, feather light percussion and rich keyboard harmonies that leave a full, but not clogged, texture.
And then there’s the trombone, played by the multi-talented Sadier, which helps give the album a distinctive edge. Sometimes its presence is barely noticeable, contributing a single repeated note in dialogue with the guitars, as on Pas Toujours Encore. At other times it is brought to the fore, with a remarkably tender piece of playing to open the strangely moving 2 Portes, 7 Fenetres. This track is a curate’s egg, achingly slow to start with but switching abruptly to a bossa nova rhythm, ushering in a faster section. Typically for Sadier she lets the music speak for itself before adding any vocals fully three and a half minutes later.
Becoming is a strange song, too – delightfully so at times, but awkward when Sadier is searching for the right pitch. Sensible Et Extensible is where the band choose to funk things up a bit, a move that would be well employed on a couple of the other numbers perhaps. This is the major criticism of the record, that it spends a lot of time at a uniform tempo, and even more time in the same key. This may sound a pedantic technical point, but it does lead to several tracks that sound the same. If Monade weren’t so adept at varying the sound pictures this would have been a potentially ruinous problem.
As it is, the record is an understated hit. Sadier typically alternates French and English effortlessly, and if like me you have limited skills in the former the use of English will be amplified considerably. A case in point is the line in Becoming where Sadier sings, “I should rejoice for who I am”. This jumps out, probably unintentionally, as one can’t help but recall the tragic death of her Stereolab band mate Mary Hansen, a long time backing singer.
As it is, the Monade project seems to be flourishing, and here Sadier has made a warm, fuzzy record to soundtrack the emergence of milder weather. Well, we can but hope!