The Trip is the first solo undertaking from the elegant and studiously measured voice of Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier. The effort begins with “One Million Year Trip,” the opening bars of which seem to allude, consciously or not, to Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Crisp, cool, and characteristically dispassionate, Sadier’s music initially risks lapsing into sonic wallpaper. Lacking any visceral qualities, her undeniably lovely delivery sometimes undermines the content of the music here. But that’s how Stereolab always operated, too.
Take a sweet, simple song like “The Girl From Ipanema,” for example – territory which Sadier and Stereolab owe and pay significant respect. Despite Astrud Gilberto’s plain, even awkward delivery, the slight tune remains ripe with passionate intensity, a characteristic often missing on The Trip. It’s a relief when, on a sleek, slow song like “Fluid Sand,” guitars and drums finally crash in. If passion isn’t found in Sadier’s delivery, it needs to sneak in occasionally through the music accompanying it.
So you write a review up to this point only to learn Sadier forged this album partly in response to her sister’s recent suicide. How then do you respond to this information? What additional light, if any, does this fact throw upon your listening experience? What level of reconsideration do you owe the proceedings? Can some of that passion missing from Sadier’s almost clinical delivery be found in her lyrics? Yes, it can. “My little sister’s voice / Forever muted, inaudible,” she sings on the opener. “She went on a million year trip / And left everything behind.”
Now, despite the casual tone and pace of Sadier’s voice, the lyrics pierce. Their breeziness proves brutal. This isn’t just another Stereolab album, even as you’ll certainly hear that band’s unmistakable influence. It’s an elegant and thoughtful effort, laced with grief and steadily reflected upon.
The aforementioned “Fluid Sand” surprises, too, when Sadier sings calmly of “a type of suicide,” referring not only to her sister’s untimely death but also to her own failure to live life to the fullest. It’s fair then to say, Sadier’s dispassionate pitch and pace match the material quite appropriately. And when “Fluid Sand” does jolt to life, there’s more meaning to that awakening than may appear at first listen.
Amidst the original material, Sadier tosses in a few brief instrumentals allowing subtle shifts in mood. She also tenders a handful of covers, including a relatively jaunty version of “By the Sea,” initially performed by Wendy and Bonnie, as well as the highlight, “Un Soir, Un Chien,” a chilly, intentionally anachronistic chanson in the Serge Gainsbourg vein. Her rendition of “Summertime” slips in at under two minutes, delivering the standard calmly without a scintilla of passion Ella or Billie would’ve given it. Ah well, we shouldn’t expect her to break out of her refined delivery. After all, she has expectations to keep.
Sadier’s voice remains a gorgeous thing throughout The Trip. New listeners and long-time fans shouldn’t be surprised the singer can deliver such an immaculate product here: beautiful music for the chronically disaffected among us.Visit: Laetitia Sadier | Drag City
Purchase: Insound | eMusic