Review : Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer
PitchforkSeduction 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. For Gravity the Seducer, they've taken off the cinder block that Velocifero applied to the gas pedal, opting for a floatier, airy feel that often sounds as if its creators' feet are barely touching the ground. Hired gun Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails) returns to lend an extra hand, but his touch is less heavily felt than on Velocifero, where, more often than not, throttling industrial rhythms prevailed.
Change is good, right? Well, here's the rub: Ladytron aren't quite content to let go of the since-perfected Witching Hour sound that won them attention beyond the Cobrasnake crowd, so the push-and-pull between their new-look sound and the blank-eyed electrogaze of the past creates an unfortunate tension. "Ace of Hz" and "Mirage" are boilerplate, late-aughts Ladytron, right down to the charging synth melodies and vague political-naturalistic lyricism, and the former's shoulders-shrugged ordinariness is driven home when its melody is redone on the instrumental LP closer "Aces High". Earlier on the album, another sorta-instrumental rears its head in the form of "Ritual", a limp faux-rocker that, if nothing else, makes for an easy "Roxy Elevator Music" joke.
Unsurprisingly, the weightless pomp of Gravity the Seducer's fresher material is more impressive. Opener "White Elephant" is a sneaky-good song with a swaying melody that belongs in the Great Ladytron Songs canon, while the drum machine-kissed ballad "Ambulances" bucks the band's trend for blush-worthy, Tolkien-esque lyricism in favor of a worrying plea in the name of lost love. Still, even when Ladytron attempt to fully escape the past, it haunts them: the melodic structure of album highlight "90 Degrees", in all its glistening beauty, can't help but recall Witching Hour closer "All the Way...", a song that's of the band's most directly affecting works to date and certainly more substantial than the majority of what's here.
So Gravity the Seducer is a transitional album bearing the growing pains and separation anxiety that we usually associate with bands that are in between periods of true inspiration. It's not a bad record, but it is an upsettingly uneven one, especially considering the flashes of greatness that Ladytron are still capable of. I'm tempted to give them the benefit of the doubt, though, based on their longevity alone. In his review of last year's greatest hits collection, Best of 00-10, ex-Pitchfork editor Scott Plagenhoef made an excellent case for why Ladytron demand more than a light dismissal-- and, let's face it, considering the flash-in-the-pan electroclash "movement" that first gave them recognition, it's a pleasant shock that they've stuck around this long and still manage to evolve. "Points for showing up" usually carries negative connotations, so how about we give Ladytron "points for surviving." After all, simply sticking around without growing totally stale is a feat that's not easily pulled off these days....full text
GuardianLadytron 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. The problem with creating one of the last decade's great songs – 2005's Destroy Everything You Touch – is that subsequent work will always be judged against that yardstick, so despite its undeniable worth, Gravity the Seducer leaves an "if only …" in its wake....full text
ClashmusicWhen Ladytron emerged at the start of the previous decade it was easy to write them off as electro chancers. ‘Blue Monday’ beats hadn’t at this point been merged with mid 90’s alternative pop but now it’s the norm trickling up to the very top of the pop tree where the likes of Gaga and Katy Perry reside. It’s easy to forget but as evidenced on their best of compilation from earlier this year, Ladytron did this first.
The mysterious anonymity of this Liverpool based act was at direct odds with the embers of the Britpop movement which was dying out at Ladytron’s time of inception, synthesisers were out, short cocksure men playing three chord based rock music were in. With the benefit of hindsight we can now see how Ladytron were right all along, just listen to The Stereophonics at their biggest and very worst, ‘Handbags and Gladrags’, next to the devastating ‘Seventeen’ from the same time, everything sounds like ‘Seventeen’ now whereas the 'Phonics are quite rightly remembered as retro rock creeps in boot cuts.
‘Gravity The Seducer'’s opening track ‘White Elephant’ signals their new approach, the minimal bossanova beats are washed over with Beach Boys ‘Smile’-era piano and swooning strings with Helen Marnie’s vocal harmonies almost Abba-esque in their depth. She is in fine voice throughout the album transforming from the sexless ice queen of the past to the heartbroken yearning on the viola laced ‘Ambulances’, Ladytron have turned their back on the past and now emit a feminine warmth. ’90 degrees’, the album closer (aside from a throwaway revisit of recent single ‘Ace of Htz)’, bookends the album is an astonishing blend of dramatic analogue synthesisers, fuzzy Wurlitzers and muted electronica beats, it’s 21st century shoegaze, almost Slowdive in its texture, a genuine showstopper of a track.
‘Mirage’ re-appropriates the sound of long lost 80’s one hit wonders The Passions, giving them a shot of 21st Century new wave cool, the instrumental ‘Ritual’ is a funky interlude with Eno atmospherics and the anxious, dark pulsing of ‘White Gold’ takes its cue from ‘Music For The Masses’ phase Depeche Mode and old techno 12”s from Berlin. These are three of Ladytron’s finest songs. Although there’s a new found spaciousness to their sound, they remember their claustrophobic past with the spooky ‘Moon Palace’, led by Mira Aroyo‘s slightly off-key detached vocals which add a sinister element to a track so oppresive it’s like being blindfolded and locked in a cupboard....full text
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