It's a little unusual for a band to release its most captivating work more than a decade into its career, but this is the case with Monade's Monstre Cosmic. The band's slow, subtle development has often been overshadowed by Laetitia Sadier's work with Stereolab, but while Socialisme ou Barbarie captured Monade's bedroom studio beginnings and A Few Steps More took a giant leap towards making Monade a full-fledged band, this album puts the finishing touches on Monade's transformation, revealing them as an elegant equal -- or at the very least, companion -- to Sadier's Stereolab output. More than Monade's other albums, Monstre Cosmic's songs boast clean melodic arcs that layer over each other, building with an almost architectural precision and beauty. "Etoile" is a study in contrasts, balancing bittersweet vocal melodies with warm, comforting basslines and shimmering keyboards, while "Lost Language"'s sleek yet elaborate strings and vibes wouldn't sound out of place on a Stereolab album. That goes double for "Tout en Tout Est Un"'s bossa nova-tinged interludes and "Messe Joyeusse"'s chiming, retro-futuristic chamber pop -- but they aren't exactly carbon copies of Sadier's other band, either. Monstre Cosmic's lavish arrangements echo Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Dots and Loops, but they're more streamlined and straightforward, even when "Regarde" switches from a lush melody to an astringent, single-note guitar solo, or when "Elle Topo" throws tympani and ticking watches into its spaghetti western theme mix. As with Monade's other albums (and truth be told, with Stereolab's work at times), the album becomes slightly samey as it unfolds, although "Change of Destination" closes Monstre Cosmic with effortlessly charming call-and-response pop. Even at its least inspired, the album floats by like a dream. With Monstre Cosmic, the gap between Monade and Stereolab may be narrower than ever, but Sadier's voice, melodies, and arrangements always make for an elegant experience, however she chooses to present them.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares