Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Triumphant Return of Ladytron: A Review of Gravity The Seducer


Maybe it's the name. Maybe that's why I have sometimes neglected Ladytron?

Naming your band after an early Roxy Music song shows remarkable good taste but it connoted -- for me, at least -- a lack of originality.

That said, every time I forgot about Ladytron, I'd go back to their current release at the time and get pleasantly surprised all over again.

Putting familiar elements together in a singular fashion, Ladytron have been quiet pioneers outside of easy categorization.

And this time, their newest release -- Gravity The Seducer (2011) out 12 September in the U.K. and 13 September in the States -- is their most consistent yet.

Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu, Helen Marnie, and Mira Aroyo -- Ladytron -- have produced a near-perfect representation of their craft.

Gravity The Seducer shimmers and captivates over the course of its 12 tracks. That Ladytron sound is here but there's more depth and less dance this go-round.

Oddly, despite all of the electronic tags the band has been saddled with, they've managed to -- once again -- make something organic.

It's like those Pixar films where the characters are more fully realized creations than the work of real flesh-and-blood actors in other films; here, with all the keyboard and sequencer wizardry at work, the result is one of the warmest and most human records of the year, with a layer of cool beauty sadly missing in other indie rock.

I liked Gravity The Seducer (2011) so much that I decided to give my quick-take on each track below:

"White Elephant"

That ascending keyboard figure denotes a lighter touch here. Still, don't worry: Ladytron have not turned into Saint Etienne on this album.

Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo harmonize and the song feels cinematic; as others have already noted, there's a widescreen spaciness to this album.

This is proof that electronic music has heart.

"Mirage"

A percolating riff opens the cut and a keyboard line reminds one of mid-1980s New Order here. The lead vocals are lovely even if the song has a sinister edge to it. There's also something vaguely reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux on this cut -- think that second Creatures album from 1990 or so.

A catchy song and surely the second single (?) from Gravity The Seducer.

"White Gold"

Like something out of Radley Metzger's Camille 2000 (1969), this song has a retro-futuristic vibe to it and it's languid and trippy compared to the first two cuts.

It reminds me of Single Gun Theory. Unfortunately, too many people won't get that reference.

"Ace of Hz"

Catchy and -- dare I say it? -- very 1980s-like, this track is peppy and fun. The drums -- or drum machines? -- are louder here and there's a Gary Numan-like production sheen on the rhythm section.



"Ritual"

I hate to say it but this instrumental might be my favorite track on the album. Yes, the smooth vocals are missing but it's just a smashingly cool cut.

If Klaatu and Gort were making music in that spaceship as they descended to D.C. to give mankind a warning in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), it sounded like this.

Play this loud in your car at night as the empty highway opens up before you.

"Moon Palace"

If Sandy Denny had met Eno, they would have made a song like this. There's something decidedly English and folky about the vocals here despite the insistent keyboards, echo-y vocals, and pounding drums.

"Altitude Blues"

Almost a spoken word piece, this cut has organ-like keyboard lines carrying the song upwards.

"Ambulances"

Serene and soaring vocals here with keyboard figures bringing to mind classic Depeche Mode. There's a mournful vibe here despite the heavy drum bits.

"Melting Ice"

A gnarly riff opens this cut and there's what sounds like a real drum kit on this song. A swirling, bell-like keyboard anchors things in the background.



"Transparent Days"

Did someone say Gary Numan? That bass-like keyboard riff at the beginning of this cut reminds one of that electronic rock pioneer. Another instrumental, this song is lovely and hymn-like.

"90 Degrees"

A downright beautiful song which begs to be a single. The vocals are a bit far back in the mix but that distance from the listener adds to the mood. The lines of this song are smooth and the hook is sublime:

"The night belongs to you."

The serene, uplifting cousin to "Destroy Everything You Touch".

"Aces High"

More or less an instrumental version of "Ace of Hz" and another sprightly cinematic cut on Gravity The Seducer.

Get this album on your format of choice on 12 or 13 September depending on where you live.

Follow Ladytron on their website: Ladytron.com.