Laetitia Sadier's first solo album, The Trip, centered around accepting the loss of her sister, but Silencio's focus is more global, and yet more intimate. Inspired by a profound moment of silence Sadier experienced in a medieval Spanish city filled with churches, the album finds her slowly but surely evolving Stereolab's style into her own thoughtful version of singer/songwriter pop. There's a newfound directness and intimacy on the largely spoken word "Moi Sans Zach" and the other songs in Sadier's native tongue, but most strikingly on Silencio's many political moments. While it was fairly easy to tune out the Marxist leanings of Stereolab's songs if one wanted, there's no missing Sadier's intelligent outrage on "The Rule of the Game," where she sings, "The ruling class neglects again responsibility/Overindulged children drawn to cruel games" or "Ascultation to the Nation"'s takedown of the G20: "What do we care about these self-proclaimed authorities?...They are politically illegitimate" or the enough-said song title "There Is a Price to Pay for Freedom (And It Isn't Security)." Her protests may be cerebral instead of fiery, but the passion behind them is unmistakable; indeed, Silencio's righteous anger is sometimes a more immediate hook than the subtle music surrounding it. While there is a definite lounge-pop feel to these songs, the tenor is understandably more serious and sophisticated, stripped of much of the musical irony that Stereolab played with as deftly as any Moog. Despite its stardust synths, "Between Earth and Heaven" tilts further toward jazz than any of Sadier's previous music, and the larger parts that guitar, piano, and strings play on songs such as "Silent Spot" and "Fragment pour Le Future de L'Homme" reflect an increasingly mature style that flatters her distinctive and timeless vocals. While she allows a few light-hearted moments among Silencio's heady concerns -- including the lovely "Find Me the Pulse of the Universe" and "Next Time You See Me," a tiny burst of pop sunshine that reunites her with Tim Gane -- the album's heart resides in its final track. A whispered-word meditation in French and English, "Invitation Au Silence," culminates with Sadier urging listeners to "return to ourselves" in reverberating stillness recorded in a church in southwest France. It's a fitting ending to an album that begins as a one-woman cabaret show discussing humanity's past and future and remains the work of a singular voice, one that recognizes that silence is just as vital as music.
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Review by Heather Phares