Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble - Finding Me Finding You (Drag City)

Former Stereolab vocalist remains a musical explorer to savour on album number four

Released Mar 24th, 2017 via Drag City / By Norman Miller
Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble - Finding Me Finding You (Drag City) No-one familiar with Laetitia Sadier is fooled by the sweetness and languor that her dulcet French tones seem to conjure – listen to the lyrics and there's often barbed political awareness coursing through the melodic electronica that was the hallmark of her long-time work in Stereolab, then the three albums with her follow-up project Monade.

Add to that four solo albums since 2010, and Laetitia Sadier is clearly keen to keep commenting on the modern world in her deceptively beguiling way. This time she's injecting fresh life into things via a loose bunch of collaborators under the Source Ensemble aegis that includes a duet with Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor on Love Captive, cornet contributions by Rob Mazurek, keyboard and flute from David Thayer (Little Tornados) plus further keys, synths and electronics from Phil M FU and several intense guitar sequences from Mason le Long. Long-time multi-instrumental collaborators Emmanuel Mario and Xavi Munoz are also on board.

The approach here is more complex than with any of Sadier's previous projects, and far removed from, say, Stereolab's wall of electronic sounds approach. Tracks build and change, often veering dramatically halfway through from one musical style to another. The vocal arrangements are often wonderfully complex too – Sadier worked with arrangers Joe Watson and Jeff Parker to make string charts that were subsequently transposed to vocal parts for several songs, while richly arranged choirs of voices provide depth and breadth at various points.

Things don't start that well, with the first three tracks – Undying Love For Humanity, Double Voice: Extra Voice and the single Love Captive all sounding like they've concentrated Sadier's occasional cliches – too much langour here, lazy bossa nova rhythm and crooning there. But from then on, the album makes a Great Leap Forward (apologies to Maoists).

On Reflectors, voices swoop and soar around a hypnotic pulse that shifts with the introduction of twangy guitar followed by a slow reflective section in which Sadier suggests that perhaps 'wars can't overcome old troubles'.

The Woman With The Invisible Necklace is another musical rollercoaster, mixing surging strummed guitar and flamenco-style clapping with a barbed lyric that reflects on the woes of revolutionary ideals when 'we're all bourgeois now'. On the closing Sacred Project, we get chugging electronic backing, wafting vocal and staccato choral interjections before a sudden hush to an almost spoken finale that sounds like a folk pavane.

Deep Background musical palette draws effortlessly on seductive rumba rhythms, little electronic swirls and brass splashes through which Sadier sings with deep-toned seductiveness. By contrast, she opts for a sweet-toned higher register for the excellent Psychology Active (Finding You) with its hints of both Broadcast and Espers. Creamy bass enlivens Committed to great effect.

This is an album whose confident exploration of new sound combinations shows that, however long she's been in the game, Laetitia Sadier is still a musical explorer to savour.