Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bubbling Under #106. Velocifero

106. Velocifero, Ladytron (Nettwerk, 2008)

UK electropop quartet Ladytron recorded their first four LPs in the Aughts, ’08’s Velocifero the last and best. Fronted in tandem by Helen Marnie and Bulgarian-Israeli Mira Aroyo, Ladytron possesses a cold, shimmering exterior indebted to ’80s new wave dance music, krautrock, and Kraftwerk. The two singers rarely stray from a threadlike range, their voices entwining in detached, near-monotone harmonies that create an icy tautness. After the anemic ’01 debut LP 604 and ’02’s improved yet meandering Light & Magic, Ladytron refocused. They leapt forward in ’05 with the stunning Witching Hour, whose more sophisticated lyrics and arrangements (including, for the first time, prominent guitar) made it the band’s first essential work. With the streamlined Velocifero (pidgin Italian for “bringer of speed”; also, a brand of motorized scooter), the evolution is even more dramatic. Gone are the short, ponderous instrumentals, and every song feels essential to the album’s narrative arc; the arrangements more often escape their sonic comfort zone (especially on the closing cut Versus, a duet between Marnie and guitarist/programmer Daniel Hunt). Aroyo sings two tracks in Bulgarian, including the ominous opener Black Cat and a cover of the ’96 tune Kletva by the country’s top rock band, Shturtzite ("Crickets"). Ladytron remains most effective on the dancefloor, but Velocifero’s excursions elsewhere show the tremendous growth since the fledgling attempts of their earliest work.

Highlights: Ghosts, I’m Not Scared, Tomorrow

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