NPR logo First Listen: Laetitia Sadier, 'Silencio'

First Listen: Laetitia Sadier, 'Silencio'


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Laetitia Sadier's new album, Silencio, comes out July 24. David Thayer hide caption

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David Thayer

Laetitia Sadier's new album, Silencio, comes out July 24.

David Thayer

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Stereolab, the world's greatest Kraut-lounge act, ended its two-decade-long organ riff in 2009. But French frontwoman Laetitia Sadier has carried on in its absence, and on Silencio, she's made an honest-to-goodness protest album.

Not every song on Silencio (out July 24) makes its points bluntly, but it's impossible not to catch Sadier's drift in "The Rule of the Game," "Auscultation in the Nation" and "There Is a Price to Pay for Freedom (And It Isn't Security)." Written in the shadow of a Eurozone meltdown, "The Rule of the Game" makes her intentions clear: "The ruling class / neglects again responsibility / over-indulged children / drawn to cruel games / pointless pleasures / impulsive reflexes / a group of assassins." They get clearer still in "Auscultation in the Nation": "Rating agencies / financial markets / and the G20s / but who are these people? / and why on earth do we care about their opinion? / What do we care about their self-proclaimed authorities?"

The rest of Silencio is a bit more subtle in comparison — how could it not be? When she's not speechifying, Sadier equates listening and learning as contemporary forms of civil disobedience. She ends the album with extended silence, and what first appeared to be one of those 1990s "bonus track" scenarios actually provides a chance to share the epiphany she experienced one day in the south of France. "Here [is] an invitation to sample some silence in this St. Blaise church... Listen. Listen how resonant with truth silence is."

Silencio itself wouldn't resonate if the music didn't hold up on its own. Sadier has never been one for explicit melodies, but the velvet walls of sound constructed by her crack group of session players pulsate in place. More than once, the result recalls Alain Goraguer's otherwordly soundtrack to La Planète Sauvage.

Wherever you stand on the political spectrum in relation to Sadier, it's hard not to respect her willingness to get their hands this dirty, especially in an era when it's become noteworthy for artists to mix pop and politics. On the heels of a week spent feting Woody Guthrie's ghost on the occasion of his 100th birthday, Silencio serves up a reminder that music still tries to kill a few fascists now and then.