In the beginning, Ladytron emerged as a band composed primarily of beats and hooks. The Liverpool group channeled the likes of Kraftwerk through fun and clever earworm singles like “Playgirl” that sounded tight but playful, always maintaining a good sense of humor and never, ever sacrificing danceability. After a few years, however, Ladytron began a push toward a heavier sound, with more rock influences infiltrating their genetic makeup. The electronic elements never left, but on 2005’s outstanding Witching Hour, they were bolstered with dense shoegazer sounds, and on 2008’s Velocifero, a little extra glam-rock influence as well. Their evolution, not unlike that of Depeche Mode, had gradually taken them toward a much bigger, more expansive approach, and one that suited them quite wonderfully.
On fifth album Gravity the Seducer, however, Ladytron appear to have dialed back some of that push for a denser, heavier brand of electronic music. Their production sounds as crisp as ever, as best heard on the ethereally soaring “White Gold.” But as arrangements go, those on Gravity the Seducer don’t throb or buzz as heavily as the sonic constructions on past albums have. These songs seem lighter, more atmospheric or stripped. Despite gravity’s seduction, Ladytron feels much more weightless.
For the most part, the added breathing room sounds refreshing. While Velocifero was certainly a good album, one got the impression that the band might have been reaching some limitations along that trajectory. Here, however, a song like “White Elephant” reveals new possibilities, its plinking piano hook and eerie synth backing finding the group treading closer to the darkly romantic songwriting of Bat for Lashes than their new wave predecessors. Similarly, “Mirage” is a pretty dream pop track, and one that flexes a little bit of the muscle that made their past two albums a success. There’s some infectious goth-pop on “Moon Palace,” while “Ambulance” sounds almost like the sad-bastard yin to “Seventeen”‘s cynical, sexual yang.
Though Ladytron has consistently been a band with a near-perfect run of singles, Gravity the Seducer, unfortunately, seems a little light on knockout singles. “Ace of Hz,” released earlier this year, is pretty forgettable by Ladytron standards. And nothing here has the same kind of punch that a track like “Ghosts” or “Destroy Everything You Touch” did. That said, the album, on the whole, is quite pretty, and an interesting diversion away from more bombastic, overbearing productions. What it lacks in an explosive hook it makes up for in layers of blissful dream pop, weightless, delicate and mesmerizing.
Stream: Ladytron – “White Elephant”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.