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  Nettwerk Records  
Release Date:


Reviewed by:
  Inspector Jason  

After I attended my second Ladytron concert in early 2007, I was searching online for a setlist and, instead, found a strangely fascinating photo of a mural in BogotŠ, Columbia. This painted mural of the four Ladytron band members, apparently copied from a Witching Hour publicity photo, covers a cinderblock shop wall in the city and is surrounded by other local graffiti images. Iíve come to think of this BogotŠ mural as a sign that Ladytron just might be the coolest band in the world today.

Ladytron have, of course, always emanated a sleek sophistication with their uncanny combination of detached "Warm Leatherette"-style synthesizer electro-clash with vocal harmonies that recall the best Abba singles from three decades ago. Looking at the painted mural, though, and imagining a fun-loving BogotŠ fanbase, I decided that true appeal of Ladytron lies in an approach that defies exclusion. Ladytron are the epitome of coolness, but we donít all have to squeeze into American Apparel jeans for admittance into their world. Ladytronís selection of the awkwardly comedic Brazilian band, CSS, for opening act years ago is further evidence of an acceptance for a broader audience and of the bandís eagerness to evolve beyond the post-punk electro-clash revival of which they were initially tied to.

Ladytronís fourth full-length album, Velocifero, pushes the bandís envelope to reflect a greater variety of influences while still maintaining their mastery of danceable electro-pop. The shoegazer guitar effect of Ladytronís last LP, Witching Hour, is no longer present and, at first, Velocifero may sound like a simple return to the pure electronic landscapes of their first two albums, 604 and Light & Magic. Upon subsequent listens, however, Velocifero is undeniably Ladytronís most organic and inviting effort to date. This new album may lack an immediately dynamic standout breakthrough song, like Destroy Everything You Touch from Witching Hour or Seventeen from Light & Magic. However, itís undoubtedly a more consistent entity where the band has dispensed with instrumental interludes and each track could be a potential single. Velocifero is mostly centered in electronic goth-dance territory, but Ladytronís songs now have a greater pop sensibility than ever before.

The lyrics from Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo are still endearingly evasive with an ominous touch and could be drawn from any past relationship or world observation, but their vocal style is more emotional and varied than ever before. Miraís trademark detached telephone-operator vocals have a newfound warmness on songs like Season Of Illusions and Deep Blue, while Helenís more conventional voice range still reaches into the stratosphere. On songs like the irresistible They Gave You A Heart, They Gave You A Name, Helen and Miraís vocals compliment each other in the way that has become Ladytronís trademark.

The advancement in Ladytronís sonic approach, however, is apparent before the vocals even begin on the album. The first track, Black Cat, kicks off with a long stretch of booming percussion of an intensity that we have not previously heard from the band. When Mira does start up with spoken-word Bulgarian lyrics, the abrupt percussion has already paved the way for two minutes. For the most part, the percussive boom doesnít let up for the remainder of the album.

The real strength of Velocifero is that it has a greater sonic kick and a newfound sweaty immediacy from songs that arenít merely danceable, but loudly demanding in a way best delivered through loudspeakers over a crowded club floors. Itís impossible, for example, to listen to the intense fourth track, Runaway, without turning your stereo up. The percussive urgency marks another highlight of Velocifero, Predict The Day, a track so immediate that your ears wonít care that itís probably the most minimalist offering in Ladytronís catalogue. Thereís a brief calm and sonic respite in Kletva, a cover of a Bulgarian childrenís song, but even this trackís relative subtlety is marked by a buildup of electronic distortion and frantic beat.

Through the convenience of online searches, I can see that the album title, Velocifero, translates to "bringer of speed", and thatís just what Ladytron does here. Velocifero is the work of a band that is not interested in settling into an exclusive niche of indie-cool, but, instead, wants to make the world dance. Unlike the Pitchfork-endorsed dance rock of The Rapture or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, Ladytron makes dance music that doesnít wink at us and or require an appreciation of irony when we just want to move our feet instead. Thereís a real sense of fun abandon in the musicís tempo, even when the lyrics may venture into gothic-yet-innocuous creepiness, and Velocifero is an album thatíll likely ensure more painted wall murals of Ladytron around the far reaches of the world. After Ladytronís musical aspirations finally explode into beautiful chaos on the albumís final track, Versus, where acoustic guitar strumming, male vocals, and psychedelic 60s keyboard flourishes are abound, youíll need a moment to down an energy drink before starting the disc over again.

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