RESHUFFLE, RESHIFT Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier

After two decades with
the mothership, the singer takes a solo trip.

 

BY JENNIFER KELLY

 

One door closes and another opens.  And then sometimes, the first one opens
again. 

 

At least that’s what happened to Laetitia Sadier when Stereolab
went on hiatus after nearly 20 years.  “I
did fear that the ‘Lab going on indefinite hiatus would leave a massive
emptiness,” she said, in a recent email interview.  “It was interesting to observe that as soon
as there was room, my project naturally moved to the fore to occupy into this
space.”

 

Her project, a solo album called The Trip, came out
on Drag City in September of 2010.  Then, a bare two months later, Stereolab
resurfaced with Not Music, a collection of songs originally created
during the Chemical Chord sessions of 2007.  Suddenly Sadier was at the center of a lot of
activity, hardly the “massive emptiness” she’d been apprehensive about. 

 

“Retrospectively, I can see that things and events happened
in a sequence that just flowed from and into one another,” she recalled.  “All happened naturally and nothing was
forced into any contrived position.”  She
added that she is not even ruling out further chapters in the Stereolab story,
“A long term musical project came to a natural end, but might not be a final
end if I dare say so myself,” she observed. 
“At the same time I had already put in place my own musical structure
and entity with Monade. So nothing came out a void but more of a reshuffle and
reshift of sorts.”

 

Sadier had broken out on her own before, primarily through
Monade, a mostly solo project (though Pram’s Rosie Cuckston was also involved)
that released three albums in the 00s.  The
Trip, released under Sadier’s own name, is a little different.  “Monade felt more like my private play or testing
ground — the one where you are allowed to try out stuff because no one’s
looking,” she confided.  “Maybe I put
more expectations on going under my own name. I expect more mature work, more
wholesomely connected to what ever subject, idea or emotion I want to express.”
  

 

Sadier wrote most of The Trip in July of 2008,
shortly before recording started.  The
album’s basic fabric of the album will be familiar to Stereolab fans – dreamy,
jazz-tinged vocals, undulating rhythms, a bit of drone layered onto percolating
pop keyboard lines. Richard Swift, Sadier’s producer, helped her incorporate
more electronic sounds into the mix, but it’s not a radical departure.

 

Yet the album is, perhaps, less abstract and more personal
than the typical Stereolab effort, with the lyrics reflecting a fair amount of
loss and introspection.  “The theme is
reflective indeed as well as being openly therapeutic,” said Sadier.  “I wanted the pain and sadness of loss and
separation to not be blocked and rest inside me. I knew I could put a lot of it
into my work into my music and I kind of used it to make a strong connection to
my feelings in a nonfatal way.”

 

Sadier involved a number of other musicians in the recording
and arranging process, including Swift, Elinor xxxxxx who records as April
March, Yukki Matthews on bass and Rebecca Gates of xxxxx.  One night at Swift’s Portland home studio, a bunch of neighbors
came over and recorded handclaps.  “I
love that, doing hand claps together with the neighbors,” said Sadier.

 

The album includes many different kinds of songs, some
bubbly and percolating with rhythmic energy, others wistful and
slow-moving.  “Un Soir, Un Chien,” with
its skewed funk syncopation, is a daydream you can dance to.  Sadier called it one of her favorite songs
ever, and explained it as “a poetical and abstract story of masochistic love as
well as a quest for reassuring tenderness against the threat of solitude.” 

 

At the other end of the spectrum, the cover of Jerome Kern’s
“Summertime,” is limpidly, serenely beautiful. 
Asked how she picked it, Sadier reverted to all-caps, saying, “THIS SONG
CHOSE ME!!!”  She added, “It really had
its way of popping up one night and insisting it would end up on the record. As
it is my philosophy that I have with my work to let it guide me as well as I
guide it, we had a little chat – the song and I -and we agreed that it would
make it on.  There are other songs that
didn’t succeed the agreement.”    

 

Sadier is also very pleased with the way that Stereolab’s
post-mortem Not Music turned out and has taken to calling it “my real Chemical
Chord
.  “We wrote many, many songs in
one go. I remember running out of ideas and having to look in the paper for
stuff to write about,” she said.  “Actually
a really nice one came out of that, ‘Nous Vous Demandons pardon.'”   

 

Even so, she seems to be focused primarily on her own
album.  I caught her by email just after
she’d finished up a solo tour.  How is
that different from touring with STereolab, I asked.  “I am enjoying my own company really,” said
Sadier.  “I never enjoyed touring with
the ‘Lab very much in as far as the some band members didn’t enjoy it
themselves and made sure it was a general thing; although playing the songs at
night would bring us together, thank God!”

 

She added, “I have had great fun times touring with Monade
however, so that proved me that one COULD have fun on tour. It has been a
challenge this year to travel alone around Europe
and South America but a fantastic opportunity
to learn to enjoy my own company!”

 

Sadier is home now, but still quite busy juggling personal
and professional projects.  “At the
moment I am mostly involved in qualifying as a Shiatsu practitioner,” she
said.  “Musically, I am working on a
jingle for radio BBC6 nd have been asked to write some music for a movie – which
I haven’t seen yet… mysterious story.” 

 

Sounds like more doors, opening and closing, every which
way. 

 

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