The evolution of Liverpool synth-pop outfit Ladytron’s sound morphs into a much lusher approach to electronic pop on this, their fifth studio album (following on from 2008’s Velocifero).
From their early origins, Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu have been recognised as one of the pioneers gifted with revitalising electronic pop in a post-britpop world.
While Ladytron’s early outings were marked by their embracing of a colder, more machine-like aesthetic, here the compositions have more layers and more depth. There’s more of an effort to weave in an emotional element into the songs. Helen Marnie, in a recent interview, summed it up concisely: “Gravity the Seducer still sounds like Ladytron but perhaps just another, softer, side to Ladytron.”
There’s an elegance at work here which suggests that the team who penned ‘Seventeen’ have much more to deliver than icy noir electropop. ‘White Elephant’, which opens the album, was originally released as the album’s first single. It’s a wonderfully baroque piece whose wintery melodies have a Nordic quality to them. As ever, Helen Marnie’s gauzy vocals offer a cryptic line in lyrics open to interpretation (“Surrender with me/We’re walking in our sleep”).
Not that this new approach to composition can stop the band from knocking out solid synth-pop classics. ‘Ace of Hz’ is testimony to that with its simple driving percussion topped out with a relentless electronic rhythm. Its tightly coiled melodies and choral trills lend another aspect to the classic Ladytron template.
Unusually, the album boasts a number of instrumental numbers. This includes a reworking of the aforementioned ‘Ace of Hz’ as well as the thumping tones of ‘Ritual’ and buzzy electronica of ‘Transparent Days’.
Meanwhile, the likes of ‘Moon Palace’ offers a collage of crystal melodies and subtle bass rhythms to deliver vistas of “frozen seas” and “jagged landscapes”. This theme of seas carries over to the rich depths of ‘Altitude Blues’ where synth chords plunge the listener into both murky oceans and the dizzying skies above.
Equally, the warm embracing glow of ‘Ambulances’ has an emotional punch that seems at odds with Ladytron’s traditional icy obliqueness. Helen Marnie’s wistful vocals, however, could warm even the chillest heart (“Fallen, you were calling/You, it’s time to go”).
There’s more of a strident aspect to ‘Melting Ice’ whose busy synth rhythms present a sturdy foundation for some wonderfully visual lyrics in which Marnie implores “Hide you, not seek you or flee here I must/Before you can melt down my iceberg of trust”.
’90 Degrees’ offers up the album’s title nestled away in the echo-washed vocals. It’s a simpler affair than the other tracks on Gravity The Seducer in many ways, but retains that element of warmth that oozes across the album as a whole.
Whether or not the album will be lauded as much as earlier Ladytron albums will only be known over time. Arguably, it lacks the powerful synth-pop banger quality that previous albums Velocifero and Witching Hour presented. But Gravity The Seducer also reveals a band that are willing to experiment and develop their sound.
Gravity The Seducer is out now on Nettwerk.
Publications that have featured his contributions include Electronic Sound, Metro, Japan Update Weekly, J-Pop Go, Wavegirl and OMD Messages.