Ladytron

Light & Magic

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

On Light & Magic, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed 604, Ladytron do indeed bring on the special effects, adding denser arrangements, more complex melodies, and processed vocals to their brand of spooky, stylish synth pop. Like Chicks on Speed and Adult., Ladytron helped shape the sound of electroclash before the style even had a name, and, in turn, this album feels influenced by the music that followed once the style formalized. Tracks such as "Turn It On," "Fire," and "Evil" are colder, more detached and dance-oriented than the rather naïve, bittersweet sound of 604, and feature digital-sounding synths instead of the analog warmth of Ladytron's previous work. While much of 604's charm came from the way it sounded like Ladytron just unearthed their gear from attics, dumpsters, and flea markets, most of Light & Magic -- from the "Warm Leatherette"-esque "True Mathematics" to the icy, vaguely dissonant "Cracked LCD" -- borrows from the early-'80s' sharp-edged sounds. Though this approach takes some getting used to, after awhile the album reveals itself as an accomplished and worthy set of songs. Even more so than on 604, Light & Magic makes the most of Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo's contrasting vocal styles; spare, Aroyo-sung numbers such as "Nuhorizons" are pitted against lush, poppy songs like Marnie's "Blue Jeans," which, with its warm, buzzing synths and '60s-inspired melody, is the album's most quintessentially Ladytron moment. Though Light & Magic's intricate, often fascinating sound takes center stage, the album does offer more than a few memorable songs, most notably the creepy-sexy "Seventeen"; the paranoia-by-the-numbers of "Flicking Your Switch"; "Re:Agents," a hypnotic mix of Eastern melodies and Joe Meek-like sci-fi sounds; and "Cease2xist," which features the line "Do you cease to exist when you stop being missed?" While the processed vocals used on most of the songs add another interesting textural element, they do tend to obscure the group's clever and usually worth-hearing lyrics. Like 604, Light & Magic might be slightly too long for its own good at just under an hour long, though there aren't any obvious moments that should be removed. On the whole, Light & Magic is a logical, elegant progression for Ladytron, balancing their pop and experimental instincts even more ably than their debut.

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