Side projects are interesting creatures. Though we always look forward to something slightly different‚ we revel in what makes us like the original project in the first place. If you know a thing or two about the London-based band Stereolab and their electronica-tinged drone-rock stylings‚ the new album Monstre Cosmic by their frontwoman‚ Laetitia Sadier‚ under the alias Monade‚ will feel almost familiar‚ but in a very different way.
While Stereolab's music sounds like it was recorded by a bunch of melodious mad scientists in a lab‚ here we have a similar approach to songwriting but taken out of the lab and into Laetitia's warm living room. It's more docile and laidback but still with the frantic quirkiness that makes her craft so unique. We still get the same overall feeling ('70s art-rock chord changes blanketed by charming‚ dependable vocals delivered mostly in French)‚ but what stands out is how less calculated this album feels and how naturally the songs flow.
It opens up all lazy and beautiful with the dreamy but bouncy "Noir Noir" and "Etoile." But don't let the downtempo beginning fool you. This is an album of dynamic transformations varying from song to song that keep you fully engaged‚ such as the dramatic tempo changes and smart‚ layered harmonies of "Lost Language" and "Elle Topo" or the addictive groove of "Regarde." In the latter‚ gently picked bass teases and bounces along with Laetitia's playful vocals.
From well-placed synths to gentle string arrangements‚ Monade pulls from many different areas to create a well-rounded symphonic canvas. All of these songs may have that common Stereolab-esque thread‚ but there's an element of grace here that brings them down to earth. Even though more straightforward rhythms are prevalent here‚ Laetitia hasn't fully disregarded her yen for the odd meter. The slower guitar-strumming feel of "Entre Chien Et Loup" suddenly switches to an upbeat syncopated romp filled with fun percussive tones. It's that type of quirky songwriting that keeps your interest in this album from start to finish‚ one with a much less grandiose nature than found throughout her back-catalogue. Laetitia has created an impeccable album‚ one with a continuity that is as much dreamy as it is cohesive. Its flair and eccentricity embody what makes her so loveable.