Words & Photos by Liam Moody

Laetitia Sadier, and by extension her criminally underrated former band, Stereolab, are the type of artist that you may not necessarily have heard of, but you’ve heard them before. At least, they sound so damn familiar. Their music – warm and (intentionally?) nostalgia-evoking, was and still is a sound completely out of time – an Anglo-French mixture of 60s easy listening, 70s krautrock and analogue electronica, and the sensibilities of 80s indiepop, released during the twin heights of grunge and britpop.

It’s this sense of ‘out of time’-ness that unites Lætita Sadier and the support for the evening, Coventry’s Batsch. The angular, art-pop four piece have a sound very reminiscent of Talking Heads- bright, jagged guitar and disco beats, underpinned by basslines Isaac Hayes would be proud of, and complete with keyboards that wouldn’t be out of place in a Blaxploitation movie soundtrack. Playing tracks from their current EPs, Batsch also treated the audience to a couple of songs from their upcoming self-titled album- lots of shuffling, West African-inspired rhythms brought in with handclaps and stomps at times seemed to fight against the perfectly loping beats and funky keyboard breaks, while the (by comparison) melancholic and downcast lyrics, coupled with a deadpan delivery, brought the music back down to earth- swatches of grey across the brightly-coloured canvas. A perfect slice of New York-style new-wave disco funk – a band out of time and place.

Like their support, Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble also have new material to present, as they opened with Undying Love Of Humanity, the lead track from their new album, Find Me Finding You. Lætita Sadier has compiled a sound that is both an evolution and a distillation of Stereolab, with her trademark breathy, dreamlike vocals, unchanged for decades, melting into the Source Ensemble’s use of shakers, bongos and marimba to create their trademark soft-focus exotica. As a quartet, the Source Ensemble relied on a number of synthetic instruments to build up a rich, varied texture- sometimes keeping this relatively simple, but occasionally using four-part vocal harmonies and looped guitar, which gave a somewhat otherworldly feel. At times, such as new song Committed, several different elements were gradually introduced over each other in extended sections, brought in against each other to create and develop moments of almost epic-sounding post-rock: Mogwai by way of Florinda Bolkan. The contrast between the gentle, pastoral melodies and the synthetic instruments created an interesting meld of style and feel – the soundtrack to a long-lost movie about driving holidays in the French Riviera, made in 1960 but set in 1995- with wide-eyed optimism for the future. Bienvenue dans le merveilleux monde de demain!

The Source Ensemble’s wide range of instrumentation gave the songs a suitably widescreen sheen, which combined with the woozy wordless backing vocals and Lætita’s reverb-soaked guitar to create a beautiful array of sound. Their latest album was showcased fantastically, and was suitably wonderfully received by the audience – a small piece of continental Europe, cast into a Manchester basement.

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Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble performed at Soup Kitchen on Tuesday 18th April, 2017.

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