1. Ace Of Hz (Album Version)
2. Destroy Everything You Touch
1. Ace Of Hz (Punks Jump Up Remix Radio Edit)
Many will be surprised to learn that Liverpool-born quartet, Ladytron, are marking their tenth year together as a band, largely because their current output still sounds new, challenging, and unique. Qualities few bands have managed to sustain in recent years. The past decade has seen so many short lived movements in popular music, and electronic music come and go, or be amalgamated into the content that currently occupies the mainstream charts. Ten years that represent one of the most transient and fickle periods of popular culture, with rock and dance, synthesisers and guitars, all jostling for position on the mass perceived bleeding edge of new music. Through all this, Ladytron have managed to retain their original artistic integrity and vision, reinventing and reinvigorating electronic music for the present, unaffected by market forces and superficial trends.
Consistently placing songcraft and innovation over any confining aesthetic, the foursome of Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu, Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo fashioned four albums of deliriously buzzing, whip-smart electro-pop that have kept them ahead of the curve, apart from the fads and in a league of their own.
"We've never fit into one scene, never adhered to one set of rules and never wanted to create anything that was already accepted or in the mainstream", says Wu now, reflecting on a decade highlighted by principal releases "604" (2001), "Light & Magic" (2002), "Witching Hour" (2005) and "Velocifero" (2008).
Those albums, surveyed on the career-spanning "Best of Ladytron: 2000-2010", reflect the quartet's deftly executed (and delightfully subversive) dualities: primordial grooves vs. lushly layered synths; sanguine melodies vs. shimmering atmospherics; and art-house detachment vs. the poignant narratives delivered by dueling sirens Marnie and Aroyo. Ladytron has created a body of work that reveals a fresh creative arc - and, as time has told, served as a reference point for a current crop of artists such as Lady Gaga, Goldfrapp, La Roux and Crystal Castles.
It started with a batch of Daniel Hunt's songs and a collection of vintage synths. Hunt and Wu met in the late 1990s, and through various DJ gigs met Glasgow-born Helen Marnie and native Bulgarian, Mira Aroyo, in the summer of 1999. Hunt found he shared myriad interests with his new collaborators - French electronica, Krautrock, and various evolutionary dead ends of pop history. It was a strange brew because the landscape at the time was populated by guitar-based alternative rock bands and house music, with little crossover.
"There just weren't that many people making pop music with synthesizers. We didn't invent it, but we did it in a very different way", Aroyo says. "And people would say, 'Wow, you use synths and you're not a dance band'. It worked in our favor, although we didn't fit into any genre or trend at the time".
Recalls Wu: "Being involved in music that was not like anything else going on at the time was pretty special".
With an inspired sense of experimentation in the early days, Hunt acknowledges, Ladytron's "objectives were very short-term. 'Let's make a single'. 'OK, people liked it, let's make another one'. 'OK, let's make an album'".
With the artistic success of their early singles, debut album "604" followed in 2001. The album won acclaim for its evocative synth based production and tight pop songwriting, and Ladytron were suddenly a worldwide phenomenon.
The buzz surrounding their studio recordings belied the fact that Ladytron were fledglings. Still, a European tour behind "604" gained the quartet some energy, which they quickly unleashed in the studio to make "Light & Magic", an album that displayed Ladytron's newly synergistic creative process.
"Most of the songs on "604" Danny already had, but after that things got more collaborative", Aroyo says. "When we're in the studio, we're surrounded by all these toys we get to work with, and it's always quite fun and experimental. At the time, we were trying all kinds of things".
"Light & Magic" sounded like it, with its more sophisticated melodies, labyrinthine arrangements, varying textures and broad emotional shades adding up to what many consider the band's landmark album. "Seventeen", "Blue Jeans" and "Evil" became underground hits for a band increasingly enjoying primetime airplay.
With its sound referencing everything from glam to disco to new wave to European dance music, Ladytron, at the time, were lumped with the purveyors of another strain of synth-based music popular at the time, electroclash. It was a label the band summarily ignored.
"We felt being compared to the day-glo trash-aesthetic of electroclash didn't make any sense", Hunt says. "We were wise enough to know that being positioned by the press at the forefront of it, despite our protestations, would mean we bore the brunt of the backlash when it inevitably came. However, that happened anyway, and we survived". Ladytron survived by evolving and drawing from even more influences (particularly shoegaze), for their next album "Witching Hour".
While Ladytron's progress was steady with their home audiences, they were certifiable stars when they finally hit North America in 2003. Their first U.S. tour sold out, and they made the first of two appearances at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, playing an electrifying set with a lineup expanded to include a live drummer and bass player.
"Adding a drummer and bass player live affected the way we thought about our music. It affected the way we wrote for "Witching Hour"".
More ambitious than anything the quartet had previously done, and inarguably achieving a grander scale, "Witching Hour" was greeted with almost unanimous acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, with the banging single "Destroy Everything You Touch" stamped as the band's signature song.
"In some ways", Aroyo says, "it was the first album where we knew exactly what we wanted to sound like".
Two sold-out U.S. tours followed, and Ladytron was asked to curate the 2006 Ether Festival on London's south bank. "For the first time, it felt like we were getting recognition for our work in our home country", Hunt says. "We were no longer a new band, but one with contemporaries". Nor were they a band that could rest on its laurels - following the "Witching Hour" tour, the foursome immediately convened to make "Velocifero", whose sleek, symphonic compositions further mark Hunt, Wu, Aroyo and Marnie as songwriting sophisticates. A long tour for that album was highlighted when Ladytron headlined the Brian Eno-curated Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House.
"When we started music was very polarized - you were either rock or you were dance, and it seemed revolutionary, and even punk, to make music using these instruments", Wu says. "Slowly it became ingrained in people's consciousness that it was acceptable, even natural, to make music this way".
"Sometimes I think, "what would happen if we started now, in this decade? How would things be different". There's not a lot of stuff left, really".
Ladytron's eagerly anticipated fifth studio album is due for release Summer 2011.
Ah, Ladytron, the great should've-beens, fortunately still extant because commercially successful in other parts of the world, notably Spain. At home, however, the Liverpudlian synth-pop quartet are brutally under-appreciated. For the record, their 2005 album Witching Hour is among the Top 10 most delicious albums released since the millennium, but they've been studiously ignored by not one but two electro-pop explosions - they preceded the brief influential electro-clash boom of a decade ago and are not Xenomania enough to be welcome in the current revival. They now have a Best of imminent with, as is so often the case, a couple of new tracks. One of them, "Ace of Hz", is the sort of melancholic girl-robot loveliness they can probably knock out in their sleep by now but since no one else can, they still lead the pack by a distance. (THG)