The vocals of Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo have long provided Ladytron with its ethereal edge. Some have drawn comparisons, like to acts like Elastica, but what happens under the marquee of this Liverpool electro band is something deeper and yet more elemental.
Off the back of a greatest hits package comes Gravity the Seducer, Ladytron’s fifth studio album. The record is awash in blended vocals, carefully-produced analog beats and thick hazes of sound.
The arrangements are deceptively simple, often building from informal melodies that are combined with Aroyo and Marnie’s vocal blends. Daniel Hunt (synth, guitar, vocals) and Reuben Wu (synth) round it out nicely with a laid-back compendium of rhythms and effects.
Ladytron is less forceful with Gravity the Seducer and the edge found on the groovy Witching Hour or the rocky Velocifero, their most recent studio album, is elsewhere. Here the beats are a little harder to reach and the sense of biting irony and careless hipsterness is caked in a wraithlike sense of things. The atmosphere’s intent may not be to obscure the message, mind you, but it does a job of making Gravity the Seducer an album that requires more than a bit of digging to grasp fully.
That’s not to say that first-run pieces are absent entirely, though. “Ace of Hz,” found on the soundtrack to FIFA 11 and on the greatest hits record, thumps away as it should. The bassline outlines the groove succinctly and the song trots along as the vocals delicately caress.
But most of Gravity is the stuff of “White Gold,” a cryptic and haunting track that reaches theatrical heights. Even with the drama, the tune feels somewhat distant as though hidden through a mass of webs and old analog gear.
“White Elephant,” the lead single, is more of the same. It’s like ABBA in ghost form, reaching out with arctic fingertips. “Ambulances,” with its siren-like vocals, and the amorphous “90 Degrees” are moody gems waiting to be discovered. And “Melting Ice,” despite a jogging beat and some adamant riffing, buries the vocals deep.
So Gravity the Seducer is perhaps an accomplishment in sonic seduction, as it should be. Ladytron gestures for listeners to follow along, to chase the sound ever deeper into the chasm. Questions may not be answered, but somewhere in the coldness there are some damn fine songs waiting to be heard at loud volumes.