Review Summary: A decadently austere offering of icy electronic shudders, Moogy urps and blank, neutral vocals. Uber-cool, but soulless as a result
The last damning, garish, naff commercialisation of all things electro didn’t occur in dance clubs, or on computer games, but at the turn of the millennium. For it was around that time, that some enterprising bright spark came up with the idea of gluing the word ‘clash’ onto the end. Hey presto! A new ‘genre’, that managed to stick pretentiously around for a few years until it finally imploded under the weight of its own cheesiness. Several bands received this dubious honour; few profited, especially when the whole ‘electroclash‘ debacle finally ended. For some, however, all publicity was good publicity. Fischerspooner have never looked back; Ladytron, on the other hand, dealt with it in their own inimitable way; they blanked the whole movement.
Light & Magic
is Ladytron’s follow-up to their warm, relatively basic and tentative-sounding 604
. Analogue samples are still present to give you all the sentimental nostalgia of Depeche Mode, OMD and Visage-esque New Romanticism that you could possibly desire/stomach, but the approach this time is heavily digital, with more focus on melodies, counter-melodies, robotic vocals, and inhumanly rigid, stompy beats. And so, what you end up with is an oh-so-cold slice of deliciously dark electro-dance-pop; mechanical, aloof, addictive and (wait for it!), sexy
Tracks like ’Evil’
thump their way into shimmering beautiful melodies, brought down an emotive peg or two by the veritable machines
that are the two female vocalists, Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo; at least, Aroyo is deathly deadpan on all tracks; Marnie does occasionally betray the faintest glimmer of hypnotic human emotion every now and then on the more upbeat, poppy numbers, before becoming bored and sighing her way through the lyrics which, regrettably, don’t do this album any favours. They’re not cheap; they’re simply irrelevant for the most part. The track ’Blue Jeans’
is one of the strongest, featuring a warm, wurping synth plodding through the verses, but ultimately, it’s a song about a pair of blue jeans that got lost in the ice and snow one day. Dylan can sleep safe for now.
“They only want you when you’re seventeen,
When you’re twenty-one, you’re no fun”
Easily one of the catchiest electronic choruses known to humankind (though maybe the heavy repetition helps), these are the lines you’ll have in your head weeks after hearing ‘Seventeen’
, the lead single that joins other catchy pop highlights like ’Evil’
and ’Blue Jeans’
. But the other side to this album is harder, colder, more clinical, yet still accessible in its own icy way. ’Nu Horizons’
consists of beeps, radio squeals and bassy shudders that underpin Aroyo’s Bulgarian rapping (yes, you read that right). ’Fire’
is a steady, relentless mono-rhythm that imparts a despairing melancholy; a song where the machines really do take over. But even the coldest tracks here are still very capable of gracing the club floor with their stylish presence. Add some schizoid female vocals to a Chemical Brothers track, and you’ll get ’Black Plastic’
which pewts its way along confidently, while the title track pulses and throbs its way into a spellbinding incantation. The only problem is that some seem to have been tweaked to specifically fit the clubs; a couple of reflective, even tender tracks might have added more variety. The group have compensated for this by arranging a plethora of subtle melodies to get stuck into, but fifteen tracks might have overdone it a bit.
followed this album, and possessed a soul at least. Light & Magic
is a dancey trip into quirky ancient synths and clinical robotic electronica, with a pacy twist of the dance floor to usher in the new millennium, but perhaps concentrates too much on the coolness and stylishness of it all without producing any real meaning
. Still, let’s put it in perspective; Light & Magic
is entertaining, full of repressed attitude, and walks the line between retro and modern very gracefully indeed. Its successor is, as is the usual way of these things, more polished, more accomplished, etc. Well, so what? There are just some groups that possess a basic rawness and austerity that seems to become them very well. Ladytron is one such outfit.