Ladytron Light&Magic

After waiting for the electro-clash media circus to subside, long-time synth scenesters Ladytron are rejoining the fray with Light&Magic, an album of retro-futuristic analogue pop that owes a debt not just to the '80s, from whence their synthesisers came, but to the dark underbelly of all great pop music. "I wouldn't say it was dark; it was recorded in a sunny studio in L.A. It was recorded by a swimming pool so we didn't really see very much darkness. In between takes we were trying to get a better tan," says Mira Aroyo, the Bulgarian fourth of the Liverpool-based quartet. They've certainly added warmth to their generally icy compositions - Aroyo and Helena Marnie soften their detached vocals (all the better to differentiate themselves from the omnipresent deadpan purring of Miss Kittin), while Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu have increased the melody quota considerably. But there remains a pervasive darkness running throughout Light&Magic, from the brutally brooding bass line and guttural Bulgarian lyrics of the opening cut "True Mathematics" to the Neptunes-meets-Eurythmics of "Turn It On" and the overwhelming echoes and oscillations of "Start Up Chine." Only the Breeders-ish closer, 'The Reason Why," sounds truly happy, and even it boasts lyrics like, "I'm signing off, signing out forever." "That's there in everything we do," she finally admits. "A lot of pop songs are dark. The Supremes are really, really dark but people don't say that because of the production. We're equally influenced by stuff like that as we are by the early '80s. We use instruments that were made in the late '70s and early '80s, but I wouldn't say that we're trying to do early '80s songs. We're just doing pop songs with the instruments that we like." But there's a little more to it than that. A lot of bands are trying to just do pop songs with old-school instruments and they don't sound this good. In an electro scene rooted in singles, Ladytron has delivered an entire album full of sad synths, sharp hooks and arching harmonies, plus an endlessly appealing electronic undercurrent that sweeps you further out to sea with each spin. (Emperor Norton)