Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Nettwerk
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
Have we been taking Ladytron for granted? It's been ten years since the release of their debut album and despite being responsible for a string of great songs and solid albums, recognition from both the public and awards bodies remains elusive (surely they've been more than deserving of a Mercury Prize nomination at some point in their career?). Possibly this might have something to do with a perceived overfamiliarity in the band's clear, deceptively simple sound, which could be caricatured as vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo offering cold sex-bot style seduction over finely tuned analogue synth melodies from Reuben Wu and Daniel Hunt. Gravity the Seducer is actually no exception to this, but it does find Ladytron fine-tuning their sound even further.
LADYTRON land at the Phoenix October 5. See listing. Rating: NNNN There were plenty of incredulous remarks about Ladytron's longevity when they released their best-of several months back. It came as a shock to many of us that the band could be a decade in, with a substantial arsenal of hits to show for it.
Gravity The Seducer, Ladytron’s fifth studio album, comes on the heels of a career-spanning, Best Of compilation spanning the English synth-pop group’s decade-long career. Although they had no traditional hits (At least in the UK, “Destroy Everything You Touch” came the closest), a career strong enough to warrant such a record is an accomplishment in itself. They’ve endured the “electroclash” and “bloghouse” phases and have persevered alongside plenty of flash-in-the-pan contemporaries.
2011 has been quite the year for Ladytron. In March, the British foursome put out their 10-year greatest hits collection, Best of Ladytron: 00-10, and now they're releasing their fifth album, the band's most grandiose and formal album yet. Not to worry: it's still Ladytron, with their upbeat synths and rosy vocals, but with Gravity, the band is veering into bigger soundscapes with more ethereal sounds and detours.
Gravity the Seducer arrived when the frosty synth pop Ladytron had excelled at for over a decade was being popularized by the likes of Crystal Castles, Cold Cave, and Austra. Ever the contrarians, Ladytron went in a very different direction on their fifth album; though the single “Ace of Hz” hinted at a subtler, darker direction, it didn’t fully convey the extent of it: Gravity the Seducer downplays the band’s pop strengths in favor of elaborate textures and vast atmospheres (as suggested by the endless vista on the cover). “Ace of Hz”’s melody runs through the album as a motif, while there are no less than three instrumentals here, including the lovely “Transparent Days,” which sounds like Brian Eno covering “Telstar.
With the release of their ‘Best Of 00-10’ earlier this year, [a]Ladytron[/a] gave themselves an opportunity to begin a new chapter in their career. So when main knob-twiddler Daniel Hunt referred to their fifth album as “[i]baroque’n’roll[/i]”, we felt a certain level of intrigue/worry. But, alas, ‘[b]Gravity The Seducer[/b]’ is just another brilliant slice of totalitarian electro, with a cheeky sojourn into wistful synth (‘[b]White Elephant[/b]’) and etheric pop (‘[b]Transparent Days[/b]’).
Seduction can be an evil art, and Ladytron are certainly capable of resisting it. The Liverpool mainstay's fifth album is titled Gravity the Seducer, but Newton's discovery clearly struggles to seal the deal throughout. During their dozen-year career, the band's refused to outright repeat themselves-- 2002's Light & Magic was a glossier, more robust update on the toy-store analog work of the previous year's debut, 604, while 2008's underrated, overstuffed Velocifero added a menacing stare and at-times mismatched experimentation to the void-creating shoegaze synths of 2005's game-changing The Witching Hour.
They may not destroy everything they touch, but Ladytron make for frosty, empty dance floors flanked on all sides by people with perfect bone structure and quicksilver blood. Or, at least, it sounds a lot like that listening to their fifth LP, Gravity the Seducer. Chilled just to the point where you can definitely taste the beginnings of freezer burn (which even they seem aware of, having given one of their new tracks the almost certainly tongue-in-cheek title “Melting Ice”), the dozen brief songs that make up the album are uniformly sleek, polished like a summer skyline, and stop just short of making duckface for the camera.
Ladytron have been ploughing their icy furrow for a dozen years now, first as lonely outliers for their brand of synthpop, latterly as elder statespeople of a sound that's become increasingly common. Their fifth album cleaves to their Mitteleuropa aesthetic – three instrumentals suggest their friendship with Brian Eno resulted in a desire to reproduce something of his work with David Bowie on Low; Moon Palace is none-more-spooky pop – with pleasurable results. But the highlight here – Ace of Hz – appeared on last year's Best Of compilation (and on the Fifa 11 video game), and one of the instrumentals, Ritual, sounds as if it should have been a standout song, but the lack of a vocal line leaves it feeling unfinished and unsatisfactory.
'Synthpop is dead' La Roux decreed in 2010, while absentmindedly scratching her temple with a massive... mean-looking... smoking gun. In answer to Brooklyn's electroclash scene, a decade ago Ladytron's début 604 was stylish enough to achieve what Britpop's more artsy new wave bands could not – it made sense of the Eighties for a new generation.
There are moments of beguiling brilliance on this fifth studio effort. Jaime Gill 2011 Having more or less perfected their sleek electro-noir with 2008’s savagely brilliant Velocifero, and distilled their career into the rapturously received Best Of 00–10, it’s natural that Ladytron would want to shake up their formula with this fifth album. Where previous albums have given equal weight to glacial vocals and buzz-saw electronica, on Gravity the Seducer the vocals are submerged deeper in the mix (dispensed with almost entirely on four songs), giving more space for the synths to layer, intertwine and generate friction.