“LADYTRON are, for me, the best of English pop music. They’re the kind of band that really only appears in England, with this funny mixture of eccentric art-school dicking around and dressing up, with a full awareness of what’s happening everywhere musically, which is kind of knitted together and woven into something quite new…”
That what Brian Eno, the one-time member of ROXY MUSIC, whose first album featured a skilfully splendid and rather bizarre song ‘Ladytron’, said of the electronic quartet who named themselves after it.
Inherently joined by their passion for music, Bulgarian-born Mira Aroyo, Glaswegian Helen Marnie and Liverpudlians Danny Hunt and Reuben Wu create an eclectic mix of four strong personalities with four separate ideas that meet to create one sound.
The foursome performed for Brian Eno in Sydney Opera House, as well as in some obscure places not usually freely accessible to artists, like China or Colombia. Having had five successful albums over the years, this diverse group of musicians have gained massive audiences in Europe, Canada, the US, as well as South America.
As it’s been seven years since the group’s last offering of ‘Gravity The Seducer’, which presented atmospheric textures and sedate longing melodies, it was difficult to “predict the day” of LADYTRON’s comeback, but not creating another album “was never a possibility” according to Danny Hunt, “We knew we were going to do it eventually, but various things made it not come together as early as we imagined. Huge changes in our personal lives, and our locations – two of us moved across hemispheres. In mid-2016, we felt ready to move ahead and began writing and planning”.
In the meantime, Helen Marnie released two solo albums, with the second ‘Strange Words And Weird Wars’ seeing her adopt a very dreamy style, Hunt co-wrote and produced various artists, Wu dedicated himself to photography and Aroyo fuelled her passion for documentaries.
Now comes the long awaited ‘Ladytron’; suggesting quintessential LADYTRON as per the eponymous title, the long player was introduced by ‘The Animals’. Marnie described the track as “the first new song we had, and with it we went immediately into the studio with Jim Abbiss. He’s the producer who has really understood us the most.” Reminiscent of the more intense creations from ‘Velocifero’ and ‘Witching Hour’, the punchy number was remixed by Vince Clarke and offers a ubiquitous mix of continuous sound attack from the ever present synth, guitar and fast flowing vocal.
But ‘Until The Fire’ opens the album with a promise of fast pacing, forward pushing mixtures of electronic shoe gazing punchiness, creating urgency and need to return to the very sound LADYTRON was first known and loved for. ‘The Island’, however, reduces the momentum to a romantic, dreamy and very Marnie gem, which is a clear nod towards the more and more popular synthwave movement, of which “we are savages, we are savages”.
Enter the guitar on ‘Tower Of Glass’, providing a pop electronic anthem of tomorrow. This is what Eurovision should aspire for. ‘Far From Home’ is deliciously synthetic, dreamily hypnotic and comfortably “safe and sound”, even if lost somewhere beneath the stars; it’s the perfect electronic blanket to get wrapped up in, in order to feel secure.
That very security disappears with the harsher ‘Paper Highways’; a much dirtier, messier and hedonistically destructive product, it breaks down with unexpected shifts and dangerously edgy hooks. A modern protest song, perhaps?
Maybe it’s the time to ‘Run’ … and hide … and run… nothing is certain here; an amalgamation of strange sounds, unexpected entries and production à la GRIMES meets ZOLA JESUS at its finest. Maybe that’s no coincidence, because we are entering the ‘Deadzone’. Oh how scrumptious this one is; eastern inspired, forward-driving, mouth-wateringly poppy, synthyliciously gritty and hitting the spot with the right dose of melodic elements intertwined with haunting drivers.
‘Figurine’ coalesces the signature LADYTRON vocals and a new approach to synth; it’s futuristic yet vintage, soothing yet grippingly uncertain, a modern lullaby. In many ways LADYTRON ‘You’ve Changed’, in many you haven’t. You are certainly showing new, exciting directions; quite sexy in this case, like a veiled BLACK NAIL CABARET turned girly. ‘Horoscope’ spooks, while ‘The Mountain’ slows things down, with a more demure pace and downbeat tempo.
‘Ladytron’ is wrapped up with eloquently designed ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day’, which sustains the more consolidated reticent rhythm, PET SHOP BOYS ballad worthy, with another nod towards modernised synthwave. The sweet is mixed with sour, the fast mingles with slow and the gentle meets rough, what’s not to love?
Seven years it may have been, but LADYTRON certainly come back with a punch. Amongst tracks which could be described as quintessential work from the foursome, and at times sounding like lost tracks from ‘Velocifero’, there are hidden gems which sound modern and are quite superb.
LADYTRON-like? Oh yes…
All in all, a fantastic comeback, and a worthy entry into 2019.
‘Ladytron’ is released by !K7 in Vinyl LP, CD and digital formats on 15th February 2019
Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Maria Louceiro
4th February 2019