field report no.080917

LOCATION: the Mothlight AVL.NC
SUBJECT: Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble

Somewhere around Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Stereolab's output veered studio savvy. Since then Lætitia Sadier's music has been exquisitely constructed, perhaps at the expense of a certain visceral impact. For this same reason, ABC Music—a collection of Peel Session and other live(ish) BBC recordings—remains one of my all time favorite Stereolab records. Those performances revitalize the a human impact the band. This isn't necessarily meant as a criticism of Sædier's work—I'm a firm believer that the live performances and studio recordings living as separate entities. My most damning review of a performance is perhaps "it sounded like the album, only louder".

Sadier's new working outfit, the Source Ensemble continues this tradition. They may not court the rockist outbursts of Stereolab, but their live set still belies the entirely human, endearingly flawed aspects of a music that was originally documented in a slick veneer. The album they were touring, Find Me Finding You (her fourth, post-Lab), is a high-water mark—even given her storied history. Anyone, who carries a torch for the heydays of Stereolab, owes it to themselves to catch up with Sadier.

NOTES: Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble; Art Feynman

Find Me Finding You

Lætitia Sadier Source Ensemble, 2017

While Stereolab was a going concern, Tim Gane got most the credit for how their music sounded—him, or Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas… or whoever was producing a particular record. If you follow how their respective post-Lab careers have played out, there's a strong argument for Lætitia Sadier as the guiding force. Find Me Finding You sounds like an awfully direct extension from where Chemical Chords left off, and is the best dose of the signature Stereolab sound since the breakup. It's more than her distinctive singing, it's a songwriting voice. Even the arrangements evoke the same airs. Sure, perhaps it's a case of the people working with her trying to recreate it, but that would be selling Sadier short—robbing her of sway in the proceedings or denying her force of vision. No from here on out, I am reassessing my preconceptions of her (now vast) catalogue.