Last updated: 10/21/2013 06:58:51 AM
Four identical figures stand on stage, blasting out edgy pop anthems with Teutonic flair and twisted outlook. This is Ladytron – a quartet composed of Helen Marnie, Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu, and Mira Aroyo. They've taken the UK by storm, toured extensively throughout Europe, and are now prepared to bring their sound stateside with Light & Magic, their newest release on Emperor Norton Records. Forming by chance through meetings in bars and parks, they set out in an unusual way, ignoring London to play their debut show in a Paris bowling alley, and releasing their debut single, "He Took Her to a Movie," in mid-1999. Strange European dates followed in temporary spaces in east Berlin and to frenzied electrokids in Barcelona, slowly building a reputation as one of the most interesting new acts around, for lovers of the sounds and the songs alike. This skewed approach to crafting pop music has rewarded the group with overwhelming critical acclaim. Ladytron's UK debut single, "He Took Her To A Movie," was recorded for literally nothing. It was quickly picked up by British national radio, MTV2, and championed by the NME and other English magazines like Select, Melody Maker, and Sleaze Nation calling Ladytron "the most exciting new English band in years, by a long way."
Their summer 2000 "Playgirl" single went even further, pre-empting the nascent electro movement, and drawing acclaim from the likes of Felix Da Housecat, who says Ladytron were a major influence on his hugely popular Kittenz and Thee Glitz album. As diverse as their nationalities and backgrounds may be – Mira (Sofia), Helen (Glasgow), Daniel and Reuben (Liverpool via Hong Kong) – the musical influences of Ladytron are possibly even more so. A listen to the tracks "Playgirl" from 2001’s critically lauded debut full-length, 604 and "Commodore Rock," from the summer of 2000’s EP of the same name, calls to mind electro, but at the same time, suggests a pop instinct and the melodic inspiration of Lee Hazelwood or Francoise Hardy.
The new material goes further: Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, early Massive Attack, and even low-fi takes on Chicago house get thrown in the dish, together with the more obvious sources from the likes of Blondie or Young Marble Giants. Light & Magic’s "Seventeen" is Ladytron in concentrated form, featuring everything that made them right all along, whereas "CrackedLCD," a standout track, sounds quite unlike anything out there.
With the coolly aloof vocal stylings of Helen and Mira complementing the edgy electronic programming, it's hard to determine if this is the music of tomorrow or yesterday. Regardless, Ladytron's sound is proof that electro isn't necessarily synonymous with retro, and that sometimes it is possible to have the best of both worlds – especially live, where the band is developing, sometimes manifesting itself as a full-on electrorock assault, and at other times exploring more compact, edgy set-up. The foursome continues to shake up perceptions in the worlds of pop and electronic music. The new album, Light & Magic goes further still – beyond expectations, and in unexpected, refreshing directions.