LIVE PERFORMANCE AT ICER AIR SAN FRANCISCO
Rating: Show 10, Sound : 8
EXTENDED PLAY EP and DVD
Rating: 8 --prefer more new songs less remixes.
Extended Play - CD/DVD
1: High Rise [Club Mix] (6:09)
2: Nothing to Hide (3:51)
3: Weekend [James Iha Mix] (4:02)
4: Sugar [Jagz Kooner Mix] (5:25)
5: Citadel (3:54)
6: Destory Everything You Touch [Catholic Version] (4:45)
7: Tender Talons (3:31)
8: Last One Standing [Shipps & Tait Mix] (3:47)
9: Destroy Everything You Touch [DVD]
10: Sugar [DVD]
11: Once Upon a Time in the East: Ladytron in China
It is hard not to gush when discussing Ladytron. I first saw them live in April 2003 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. They were wearing semi Maoist uniform like outfits, and had all Korg equipment--I looked at the stage from the side balcony, and the V formation of the synths was like an attacking space fleet--shades of Gary Numan, Human League and other early synth bands abounded. I already had ben listening to the first CD 604 for a few years, so I knew the songs even though they were not yet known much in the US. The atmosphere was cold and controlled, but with shading done by Mira's filter mayhem. I love Korg equipment myself, but only own a Wavestation. But I know Korg and would like to have more----This band has more.
So with that disclaimer of bias aside, I would have to say that 2005's The Witching Hour is a fantastic new era emerging in the Ladytron sound. More layered and nuanced, even more atmosphere, and great live visuals. They have added guitar and live drums and bass, and they are displaying amazing power. I have to talk about all of these releases and live shows at the same time to give you an idea of the amount of output this group have done in the last few years. They toured China, South America (and are going again soon), North America 3 times in 3 years ( 2 times this year alone)---and put out 2 great releases the same year. The video for Destroy Everything You Touch is a BRILLIANT use of the video form. And totally opposite the early sterile, androgynous look of 2003. They are now wearing dresses and suits which look like 15th century Pilgrim outfits,( and Gomez Addams) but most likely a nod to The Crucible and that angle of Witchcraft. Mira's curls are the most delightful detail of the whole Past Present Future blend going on with this band. And they are loosening up and ROCKING --Watching TV at 4 am--and singing great harmonies, and pushing an electrifying funky syncopation. Retro influenced but still being totally processed and modern.A romantic approach to technology.
Soft Power Their LP CD, The Witching Hour, is a fine album all the way through. The last full length release, Light and Magic made me wonder about Ladytron. I have liked this band since their first full length 604 came out, and really liked that first cd. The follow up release Light and Magic had some great songs, like 17, and even Bluejeans had some great moments. But it felt like a lot of songs that didn't relate--and now with The Witching hour, we get the results of that kind of search for a sound. And Ladytron documented it all. You can really hear them growing stronger with each release. They OWN what they are doing now, === (which has elements of Curve emerging)-a Dark power--but like the song says --Soft Power. Smooth power. Clean Power. Their live shows helped them develop a more hand made type of electronic music. More feminine in some ways than before, but no less powerful. The use of distortion and the heavy Psychedelic sounds are pure 60's, but the beat and the bass are the 80's and 90's.
Right from track one, we hear a new Ladytron, distorted guitars lead, with that serious 60's distorted go go organ on top of a Sonic Youth layered distortion, and psychedelic effected vocals by Helen. Like the Doors in car wreck with Elastica. Retro flavors, but this is too precise and measured to be old music, and forward looking to all the possibilities of the studio. They use mostly analogue keyboards ( if not all, some are emulators as well I think) , but that ragged filtery edge is a huge new factor in their sound.Roxy Music meets Human League on a dark road at night for a Seance.
Track 2, Destroy Everything You Touch, is the runaway track from this album, with a fantastic video for it included in the DVD and EP set I will talk about later.This has been the radio hit that Ladytron has wanted to cement their place in the US music game. Their nearly constant live presence and their cool European style are getting them associated with Fashion, and upscale Young America, and can only do well for the band.
Track 3 International Dateline is like a horror movie on 60's radio--spooky guitar and keyboards. Slow and eerily beautiful. The reverb on Helens' vocals place this song in the past, but also the future.Hitchcock would have loved this. Crossing the International Dateline has never been so scary--like saying farewell to a lost love at an Airport in your memory. Truely haunting.
By track 4, Soft Power, you know this album will be going somewhere.I remember when I first heard this CD--I had read about the addition of guitars, and thought that this meant the end for Ladytron. On first listen, I was wary, and as each new song came on, I was thinking that the next one could not possibly be as good. But it was, and so was the next. By the 5th song, I gave in and just let the Soft Power wash over me. Elements of the Stranglers, where spooky Latin rhythms await around the corner. The same type of electro story telling as early Yello. You just know there is a movie to be made for everyone of these songs. On the DVD there are 2-, but there must be more to come.
Track 7, Sugar, is like a more Psychedelic Elastica, with sky saw guitars and wickedly catchy and tight changes. Again, very dark and sultry--the witchy stuff is coming on strong.The guitar and vocals meld into a swirling liquid groove. Propulsive drums grab the guitar and go for a swim. Serious stuff. This album has songs that stick in your head for days.
Track 8 , Fighting in Built Up Areas, contains references to the German Motoric 70'sound of Neu and La Dusseldorf ( whose members were early members of Kraftwerk), and early Front 242 filtered through the Eastern lens of keyboardist and vocalist Mira, which are appropriate for their EuroUrban Look and Sound. And giving Mira chance to do vocals on certain songs always means a more industrial, edgy song is in store, like track 8.(find name).Dischordant meets processed harmonics. Tone shards and colours. But funky and danceable.City living is what they are all about. International datelines and romances of the moment. An updated Eurocool that once was the sole province of Ultravox. A futuristic Maltese Falcon.
This album has a great sense of Dynamics, with softer and slower songs, and a good dose of HEAVY songs, this is a band in control. And each song seems better than the last.
Track 9, Last one Standing, is like a Nancy Sinatra / Lee Hazlewood song of the 60s.s, mixed with Morriccone guitars set in Monterey or Switzerland. An outstanding track, and just as excellent live by the Bay at AT&T Park in the California Haze. You can really hear Mira's hand done filter sweeps. This detail of hand done quality is outstanding throughout this album.
The album just continues to become more bewitching from there--But there is another release to trow into the mix of this amazing band. Now you see why I gush.
Like I mentioned before, I have seen Ladytron live 3 times in 3 years, and missed them 2 times other than that. They obviously love the US , and in my opinion, The US loves them. They have a steely image, but they are the most humorous band, in a shy kind of innocent but dark way.If there were an award for FRIENDLIEST BAND IN THE WORLD, Ladytron should win hands down. They
always mix with the audience. I met Mira and Helen after their first show at First Avenue in early 2003. They signed a promo postcard of their first tour for me. When they finished their GREAT show at Icer Air ( a giant Ski and Snowboard show this past weekend, said to be a competition, but really more of a publicity machine at AT&T Stadium in DT San Francisco), they came
over to the fence and signed autographs and took pictures with fans. They obviously love their fans.
I had seen them earlier this year at The Mezzanine, but although I liked their performance, and the great video background, but the stage was too small for them. The sound was not mixed very well either, as that space boosts a lot of low end, and the DJ's like it that way, so some songs rumbles too much.The lighting was bad as well. AT&T Park rumbled too, but I was right up front, and got more stage volume than the mains. They played pretty much all of The Witching hour, plus, Cracked LCD and 17 from Light and Magic. and a few earlier tracks as well. I was busy trying to get good photos, as my last ones were too dark and far away. They played for over an hour, and talked to the audience, joking ' WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT 6 YEARS AGO THAT WE WOULD BE PLAYING IN AMERICA TO HALF EMPTY SPORTS STADIUMS?" Right next to the stage was the main event, the ski and snowboarders jumping a gap, and gliding down a steep ramp covered with nearly ice quality snow. They were jumping during the show. I wonder if the loud sound was distracting any of the participants. Or if they were grooving out too much and forgot how to land on ice.
The live show was a great summation of the last 3 years of Ladytron activity. They were doing another POPSCENE DJ event that night before they left in the morning to go back to Liverpool.I found out that this major promotional event was indeed added at the tail end the Ladytron's US Tour. It shows how much this group LOVES to play, and loves the US. At this show they played songs frome each album, but with heavy accent on The Witching Hour. And accent on the HEAVY. Live, this band is becoming more confident and will eventually be unstoppable. They have the hooks, they have the Eurochic looks, and they can carry it off live.They obviously have the air of cool about them, if Icer Air made them a headline act. But they are not a Fashion band. They are earning their kudos the old fashioned way. By great songs and harmonies in a shiny new updated pop package. And non stop touring and meeting the fans.
Ladytron have come to fill the gap in my musical life left by the passing of such bands as Curve, Elastica, and the early Hooverphonic. Great atmosphere, but great backbone and hooks. Lots of experimenting with sound and layers.
If releasing a full length CD and touring the world was not enough, the band released a CD EP this spring, and it contains new songs and 2 music videos and a tour documentation of their trip to China.This band seem so shy, but they are so PUBLIC, and REAL---and they live so broadly, and without fear and a taste for adventure. I have to say I respect the approach they take to their projects, and their obvious enjoyment of the whole thing. These are not jaded rock darlings ( though the song Destroy Everything you touch HAS been overplayed on commercial radio--if I actualy LISTENED to these stations for any length of time, they would have KILLED my favorite track of the album).
As if you have not had enough Laytron, the EP and CD combo Extended play has 3 new songs, and 5 remixes. Plus a DVD containing the fabulous Destroy Everything You Touch video, with the band playing many roles ( Mira as the Snow Witch, Helen as a Mountain), all very Mythic and pagan. There are odd little Quay Brothers like creatures twitching around in various scenes. One
of the best videos of recent memory. A lot of Japanese design influence.
The second video is for Sugar, and is more tame, but still strange. I spotted some well known British comedy actors in this one. And the third is an hour long documentary on the tour of China.
I think everyone should give the new efforts of this great band a listen. They are entering a very productive time, and I think their best work may be yet to come.
Artist Link: http://www.ladytron.com