Two years ago, Laetitia Sadier proved she was not only in the most productive band on earth, Stereolab, but was also the most productive member, releasing Socialisme Ou Barbare, her other musical project apart from the band. Compared to the lush arrangements of the latter-day `lab, Monade sounded more subtle by comparison, as the songs were smaller and less produced, giving the project a home-recording feel, though it still carried traces of Sadier’s full-time outfit. Each song was a mini-nugget of space age bachelor pad joy, but failed to reach the heights of many of Stereolab’s best moments. For all intents and purposes it was a commercially released demo. Not that that stopped any of us from enjoying its subtle pleasures.
In two years time, however, Sadier has upped the production values, stepped away from the drum machine and found herself credited with a much denser and more ambitious affair. Monade’s second album, A Few Steps More is a far more accomplished album than Socialisme, playing tunes that share more in common with Stereolab than before, as the songs are all full-band arrangements with plenty of jazz-influenced melodies and retro-kitschy keyboards. And yet, A Few Steps More is the record that will set Monade apart as something other than Stereolab Jr.
Without Tim Gane, Sadier strips off the plastic sheen, revealing a more organic sounding record than Stereolab’s more recent efforts. “Wash and Dance” is upbeat, but spacious, allowing some breathing room between guitar strums and Sadier’s “ba-ba-bas”. The title track seems to be a song built on separate movements, with a long instrumental intro leading into a shorter vocal section. The longer “2 Portres, 7 Fenetres” is one of Sadier’s most sultry torch songs, playing on a slower approach than typically bouncy Groop fare. But “Becoming,” by comparison, could have been pulled straight from Mars Audiac Quintet.
There’s nothing drastically surprising about A Few Steps More to the casual listener. But the upgraded version of Monade finds Sadier attempting a grander sound with more natural results. There’s enough to appease fans of Stereolab on this collection, though Monade can certainly stand on its own. Sadier has stepped out as an impressive solo performer, but on A Few Steps More her work could easily be mistaken for that of an entire whimsical, outlandish orchestra.
Stereolab – Margerine Eclipse
Broadcast – Work and Non-Work
Pram – The North Pole Radio Station
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.