If there’s any similarity between Monade, and the other group headed by their leader Laetitia Sadier, Stereolab, it’s the ‘ever changing same’ at the heart of both group’s music. Stereolab’s aesthetic voraciousness is tied to the referential, monotonic heartbeat of Tim Gane’s songwriting, but with Monade, Sadier’s at the helm and her songs are often wildly different, in both structure and outcome, to Gane’s efforts. The voice might cause a few flashbacks, but lock into the DNA of Monstre Cosmic and you’ll find very different blood pumping through this record’s veins.
A lot of it has to do with Sadier’s melodic skills, her way of following lines of thought via phrasing, and the interlocking of the instruments to create a gently pumping rhythm machine that can leap into different tempos and registers as if it’s the most logical development possible. There seems to be a lot of this ‘modular’ approach to songwriting around now, but few people do it so effortlessly. I suspect it has something to do with how Sadier threads arrangements for percussion and strings through the record, so they work as binding material, the glue that binds an at-times friskily playful rhythm section to the coy inversions and swinging strums of the guitars. The halting cadences of “Messe Joyeuse” feel playful in this context, where in lesser hands they’d come across belabored.
Sadier also loves surprise. The slide guitar that weeps through “Elle Topo” is a gorgeous sideways shot, and the field recordings that unfold between the songs always manage to catch one unawares, dropping you into an everyday made strange by the magic of the surrounding songs. Its songs play with a typically French charm and poise without reducing that language to vacuous signifiers. It’s even a bit dramatic at times, but without the grandiose flourishes. Monstre Cosmic is full of pop music from someone with a graceful, fluent understanding of the genre.