Laetitia Sadier | Audible Utopia

In the three years since post-rock pioneers Stereolab announced an indefinite hiatus, Sadier has been keeping busy. July 24 will mark the release of Silencio, her sophomore solo offering. It’s an LP that sees the French-born, London-based artist expand on the intimate tone and songwriting style that has come to distinguish her personal work from that of her former bands, the aforementioned Stereolab, and dream pop quartet Monade. But while her solo debut, 2010’s The Trip, is in many ways an exercise in self-examination and reflection, Silencio, although personal, looks pointedly outward.

“It’s about making a deeper connection to ourselves, to the world around us, and with each other,” she says. “Finding the human in oneself, and in the other.” In some ways, things have been reversed since the release of Monade’s Socialisme ou Barbarie, her first album away from the Sterolab fold. “There wasn’t one really overtly political song [on that album] – a lot of them were nursery rhymes, actually,” Sadier says. “But I felt that the album lacked some politics, and I wanted it to have a political dimension. That’s why I called it Socialisme ou Barbarie, to put it into a bigger context.”

The opposite holds true on Silencio, where left-leaning principles shine through despite a relatively oblique title. She says the name came to her nearly a year before she began writing the songs, while visiting a church in a small Spanish town. In the final track, “Invitation au Silence,” Sadier describes the experience that inspired the album’s concept, and summons the listener to join her in observing “how resonant with truth silence is.” “There was a moment of pure silence, which was amplified because of the nature of the church,” she says. “It felt delicious to my ears, to not hear a noise, which is so epiphanic, in a way. It left me with a sense of deep connection with myself.”

Like the piece’s narration, the album as a whole calls at once for pause, and action – the quiet necessary for measured, contemplative thought, and the will to move on the conclusions gained from that introspection. The combination of Sadier’s phrasing and vocals achieves the difficult task of conveying both extremes, with her distinctly serene timbre balancing her knack for penning dynamic and stirring lyrics.

Sadier’s concept of silence – as a vehicle for deeper understanding – remains at the forefront throughout the album. “The symptoms that have heralded the need for that calm are all around us,” she says. Ever-present and cacophonic marketing campaigns, and conflicting messages from the most powerful demographics, make it impossible for the rest of us see just how dire the global situation has really become. “In terms of political will and political power, the shift is very out of balance,” Sadier says. “In Europe, there’s two countries, Greece and Italy, that didn’t elect their presidents – it was imposed on them by the financial system.”

She cites the Eurozone crisis as a direct danger to the democracy we too often take for granted. And while she concedes that she believes in the viability of other forms of governance (including the collective, to name one), she says financial imbalance and class conflict are corroding the best system we can hope for right now. “Democracy is seriously threatened; we have to remember that some people fought for it, and at the moment, it’s one of the best models that we have,” she says. “We’re losing it, it’s going through our fingers as I’m speaking to you, because people are too bombarded and they can’t think straight anymore.”

At no point is that sense of urgent dissatisfaction more explicit than on “Auscultation to the Nation,” where Sadier quotes lyrics directly from the diatribe of a French radio phone-in listener. “Who are these people?” she sings, referring to the world’s financial officials and leaders. “What do we care about the self-proclaimed authorities?” She says there was little to change in the caller’s initial examination. “I thought, this guy is asking exactly the right questions, and I think we should all be asking these questions, and demanding an answer,” Sadier says. “Why are these rating agencies governing –,” she stops short. “No, not even saying why are they, but why are we letting them? They’re unelected, and yet they make decisions that will have direct implications in our lives.”

The disintegration of the financial system and the toppling of democracy aren’t exactly typical subject matter for dreamy, lounge-tinged pop tunes, and the lyrical tone of the album may, at first listen, seem cynical. But Sadier says she doesn’t see Silencio as a downer. In fact, she feels it’s quite the opposite. “I think humanity can always take their future into their own hands, at any given time. We choose, we decide,” she says. “It’s always in times of crisis, like this, when it’s really important to raise awareness, because that’s when you can take a new direction.” The choice now is whether or not we’re inspired to act, or tempted by complacency.

As Sadier puts it, we need to decide whether the priority is “buying a new flat screen TV, or defending our rights.” It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but she hopes her album’s call for silence will help people to move forward with clear heads and optimism.

“I know that we can be enlightened, and make choices in an enlightened way. I know it’s possible if we decide that it’s possible,” she says. “I’m not saying, hey, let’s find heaven on earth. But we can live under a better system that is more equal, and more respectful of humans, and human work, and human life.”

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