Ladytron - Gravity The Seducer
Record Label: Nettwerk Music Group
Release Date: September 12th, 2011
With four previous studio full-lengths and a Greatest Hits collection already established under their collective belts, Liverpool quartet Ladytron have thus far built themselves an admirable career spanning over a decade as a direct result of progressing and exploring an assortment of themes, topics and directions within each new recording. Their debut effort, 604 was an engaging and thoroughly danceable listen that hinted at analog undercurrents throughout, their sophomore release, 2002's Light and Magic is home to the delightful eighties inspired, "Seventeen" complete with its gorgeous female vocal melodies and playful lyrics (“They only want you when you’re 17 / when you’re 21, you’re no fun”) but although it boasted a number of lovely singles and individual moments of brilliance, it unfortunately lacked the overall diversity and cohesiveness of its predecessor. The Witching Hour marked a stunning progression where the group saw themselves becoming subtly more melodic, pop-friendly, and emotionally expressive songwriters, and the follow-up, 2008's Velocifero transformed their sound yet again into a more industrial direction. Gone were the hook-laden choruses that once were statements of intent, absent was the subtle levity that made Witching Hour an expansive record - in other words, there wasn't a substantial amount of immediacy to Velocifero, and yet those who persisted with it ultimately found arguably Ladytron's finest work to that point.
After an intensive touring schedule in support of the aforementioned album, and a year in isolation, the group then came together to recommence writing and recording what would become their fifth full-length, Gravity The Seducer - a record that once again withholds any semblance of a hook, and instead focuses predominantly on capturing an eerily claustrophobic atmosphere with the assistance of multi-layered synthesizers, glazed keyboards, and manipulated vocals that float and blend solemnly, never once threatening to rise over the instrumentation. Album opener "White Elephant" introduces listeners to a slightly slower, darker and weightless tone of the album, and whilst there are detached swathes of synths, sweeping piano notes covered in gentle distortion and far-off strings waltzing within the background, it's the familiar interplay between dual vocalists Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo that provides Gravity The Seducer with its first memorable moment.
In previous studio efforts there has always been a noticeable recurring theme of metaphorical lyricism suggesting insecurities, bouts of anxiety and a lingering fear of the inability to connect with significant others on an emotional level, and this is further highlighted on the elegant and equally beautiful "Mirage". Although the first verse is seemingly set within a schoolyard and the second within a sparse barren desert, they're mirages in themselves for they attempt to cleverly conceal the true meaning behind the track - the emptiness and lack of support that one can at times perceive within relationships. As flute driven melodies fluctuate in and out of the mix, resulting in a dream pop atmosphere, the chorus swells one final time with Marnie's vocals gracefully gliding to an inaudible finish moments after she sings backed by a rich cathedral pipe organ, "holding hands with a mirage / you do not exist". "White Gold" begins as quite dreary and unremarkable, but soon proves to be theatrically dark and moody due to the use of chilly, cavernous synthesizer textures and echoing female vocal harmonies.
However, as Gravity The Seducer reaches its middle stages it soon becomes somewhat apparent how front loaded, and subsequently, how unbalanced the album is structured. There are three disappointing instrumentals ("Rituals", "Transparent Days" and "Aces High") that are placed at inconvenient portions of the record, and there are no real momentum changes that threaten to break free of the constant mid-tempo approach to the album. Perhaps the only real surprise comes in the form of Mira Aroyo led, "Moon Palace". It's a lovely addition and is sure to please returning fans who are so used to hearing her gorgeous accent only fleetingly as an accompanying backing vocalist. It also marks a rare moment of spontaneity on the record, with Aroyo singing over her own haunting vocal layers, desperately gripping on to any semblance of melody she can locate while xylophone flourishes ring out at opportunistic intervals. The only other significant highlight on the latter half of the record is the stuttering percussion of "Ambulances" - a track that sees both vocalists singing together in seamless unison while soaring, reverb driven harmonies blossom around their intertwining voices.
Gravity The Seducer sees Ladytron exploring a far softer and gentler side to their music than they perhaps ever have. This results in occasional spectacular moments, and some that are unfortunately forgettable. As was previously mentioned, the latter half of the record is marred by three needless instrumentals, there seems to be an over reliance on D-minor key signatures that at times result in certain songs sounding all too similar, and the overall movement of the record maintains it's relatively slow and mid-tempo pace throughout the entirety of its twelve-track, forty minute duration. Disappointingly, the final track on the album, "Aces High" is also merely an instrumental version of track four, "Ace of Hz", which, despite being perceived as lazy from the outside looking in, is also a poor way to finish what is largely an above average album. Alas, Gravity The Seducer has its fair share of tremendous moments, but unfortunately those moments begin to lose their gloss when entangled with fragments of inconveniently placed filler.
I do enjoy this record, but maybe my expectations were a little too high after three years of waiting for it.
Nice review Bro, and thank god AP has the album for stream because I wouldn't buy it after all of those "instrumental fillers" stuff you said about the record. And I didn't like so much "Velocifero" too. However, there's something inside me that says to check it out...