Gravity the Seducer
Beneath the sheen, synthpop has a lot of heart. A genre often dismissed as “drug induced wankery,” it’s a style that takes a certain sensibility to love. Perhaps no one has been doing it as long (or with such pedigree cosigns) as Ladytron. Called “the best of British pop” by Brian Eno, the band has spent a decade building a reputation for catchy melodies and energetic performances. After releasing a best-of collection in 2010, Ladytron has released their fifth record, the stunning, atmospheric Gravity the Seducer. While the record employs arrangements typical of the band, they’ve also crafted a makeshift sonic world as expansive and futuristic as that which graces the album cover.
Opener “White Elephant” grasps directly with pretty pseudo strings and swirling keyboards that buoy Helen Marnie’s smoke addled vocals in a hazy sea. It almost sounds like ABBA run through a Moog. Ladytron’s purely electronic style is also reminiscent of early Kraftwerk. Perhaps no song shines with this influence more than “Ace of Hz,” which utilizes muted handclaps in a form of clever percussion. The synth line chugs and dips, practically being lifted from a Berlin discotheque and time-displaced to the present.
“90 Degrees” furthers that theme with thick, amassing synth refrains, giving the definitive nod to the musical creation that Ladytron are attempting. Owing a debt in some places to prog, the record is steeped in exotic indulgences that occasionally flirt with pretention. But it never gets out of hand, and as Marnie wails, “Tonight I belong to you” she sounds as lost and desolate as ever. “White Gold” sounds like it could be an outtake from the Blade Runner soundtrack, with Marnie’s vocals acting as menace and threat, singing about the power of deception over eclectic power keyboards that would make Roy Batty think twice about messing with her.
The album seems to have a loose theme of distance and loss, with songs such as “Melting Ice” and “Moon Palace” creating dissonant aural landscapes, rife with difficulties and remoteness. “Ambulances” creates a stuttering effect that mimics sirens while Marnie’s voice acts as a siren’s call. “Transparent Days” is fuzzy and swelling, sounding almost like an electronic spiritual, perhaps signaling a change, a glimmer of hope on a horizon. “Mirage” is also proto-’80s keyboard lines and steady, pulsing drum machine hits that take on illusory properties, much like the rest of the album does, with the interplay of instruments creating pretty, if mental, musical undulations.
Gravity the Seducer might sound like a villain AquaTarkus never got to destroy, but Ladytron have crafted a delicate and stimulating piece of synthpop sequencing that carries serious sentiment. While some albums of this caliber run the risk of just melding into the walls, Gravity the Seducer is an expanse to be explored, and as the final chimes softly kick in, to be remembered fondly as a waking dream.
by Rafael Gaitan