Monade - A Few Steps More

It's very simple and its charms sneak up on you.

 

 

 

 

Monade, in case you aren't aware, is the side project of Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier. This is her second album under the monika (the first being Socialisme ou Barbarie) and both follow a similar formula. That formula entails sounding a lot like Stereolab.

 

Now, if we were to discuss great band names then my favourite remains Sonic Youth, even though the band members may now be getting a bit long in the tooth. (As a total aside, when it comes to good album titles Slab's Clifford, Darling, Please Don't Live in the Past takes some beating). I've always thought that Stereolab was a bloody good name too. It might not be as striking and poetic as Sonic Youth but it does convey the sound of the band. It also highlights the main problem with the band – that although they have a very identifiable sound that is more than the sum of its parts (Anglo-American Lounge-Pop, German Krautrock, Brazilian Samba, Italian Soundtracks) there is also something cold and calculating about their music. I like the band, and own many of their albums, but I don't love them in a way that I wish I could. (Having said that, live they are a different proposition, jamming and playing with an intensity that their records often fail to capture.)

 

What of Monade then? As stated above Laetitia Sadier hasn't done a great deal to tinker with the Stereolab formula. This is particularly disappointing on A Few Steps More because the first Monade album did hint at new horizons. It is as though Laetitia left the lab for a stroll and then got nervous and hurried home. The first album was subtitled 'The Bedroom Recordings' and it did have an intimacy that the 'labs work lacks. That intimacy has been lost here. Album opener Wash and Dance is a good example – it really could be Stereolab on the stereo. The title track opens up more of a gap with jangly guitars and swirling organ noises. Of course, as soon as Laetitia begins to sing then the ghost of Stereolab inevitably hoves into view.

 

I can't help but think that if she has any pretentions of making this a distinct group then she should get someone else in – a man, perhaps – to sing. (I have no idea if she does have any such pretensions by the way). La Salle Des Pas Perdus is perfectly pleasant and features a fair bit of trombone (one of Laetitia's many talents) but again fails to cut loose from the lab's shadow. Das Kind is one of the better tracks – it's very simple and its charms sneak up on you as electronic squiggles dance over the chugging rhythm section. 2 Portes 7 Fenetres is a trombone dirge, the only chinks of light coming from tinkling keyboards as cymbals make those wave type sounds. Then, half way through, the track abruptly switches into something completely different with a jaunty bossa nova beat and singing. Sensible et Extensible is one of the album's highlights, subtly changing as it does all along its meandering route.

 

Other tracks amble along nicely enough too but ultimately there seems to be no need for this album. The first Monade album did feel as though it contained songs – many of them damned catchy – that just wouldn't fit onto a 'lab album. It isn't the case here. Having said all that A Few Steps More is still a decent album (by dint of the people involved). Frustratingly though it doesn't feel as fresh and as different as hoped.

Words: Christopher Dawson