Out of the Loop

Monochromatic for the people: Ladytron considers stock in Woolite for darks.

“Hello and a beautiful good day. I welcome you my new friend in the space,” writes German lounge artist and Myspace inhabitant L’etagere. “I hope we live a pleasant time in this space and remain up to one see again, on which I am pleased, with musical greet from Germany the sveen [sic] and my musical respect.”

This is just one of the comments from British electropop quartet Ladytron’s 87,000 Myspace friends. And, unlike many bands whose fans comprise a dedicated but geographically limited mass, Ladytron’s reach appears limitless.

“National stereotypes sometimes come out,” guitarist Daniel Hunt told Chaos Control of touring. “I’d say Sweden was the most insane response so far, followed by Germany, the French are either ecstatic or very quiet, and the Spanish are narcofiends. We have enjoyed everywhere we’ve played so far, maybe because we never bother playing in England very much.”

“‘Beauty 2′ is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in my whole entire life,” gushes a fan. “I love your music, it is so brilliant. I can’t believe you guys aren’t as famous as you should be, but that’s what’s so awesome about you. Such beauty is rare.”

And a near-hysterical (and likely underaged) Memo Rex writes, “A question: [Is] the show in Mexico in the city hall only for 18+ or all ages?? Please answer me PLEASE!!!!!”

All this Beatles-worthy adulation is for a band whose members look like late ’60s-era Vidal Sassoon models with the practiced cool of La Femme Nikita and a musical landscape so synthesized it could serve as the soundtrack to Borg: An Inter-Galactic Love Story. Not that — as a worldwide fan base can attest — that’s a bad thing.

Weird Science

“Hair – what is it?” ranted Hunt (the one with the seedy mustache) to the BBC. “It’s just hair. It’s not important!” And yet the impeccably coifed quartet manages to rack up references to its collective appearance.

“[Helen Marnie’s] swaying and hair tossing amounted to her idea of dancing,” attested the Globe. But the Boston paper also noted that the dance rock group is “equal parts style and substance.”

Ladytron is based in Liverpool. While the industrial city is home to Hunt and keyboardist Reuben Wu, vocalists Marie and Mira Aroyo are from Scotland and Bulgaria, respectively. But don’t expect any giddily folksy “We Are the World” choruses from this foursome — what brought them together was not a love of world fusion but a common penchant for vintage synthesizers.

“We used to play with a laboratory setup onstage,” backup singer Aroyo told Remix last year, on the heels of the release of the band’s latest effort, Witching Hour. Ladytron used to tour with more than a dozen analog synthesizers, producing sequenced beats and loops.

“We all DJ in clubs, so that kind of affected things when we started the band,” the backing vocalist reported to Thunder Chunky. “We’re a band, but we have dance structures.”

But with Witching, the group took a different approach, adding a bassist and drummer to play all the parts in actual time.

“It just felt really limiting,” Aroyo admits of the earlier all-synth setup, “like we couldn’t go anywhere without being tied to a loop.”

Though all this tech-talk makes the British band sound positively robotic (indeed, reviewers have described them as such), Witching — especially after repeated listening — proves to be emotive, hypnotic and graceful. Often lumped together with British synth-pop revival, songs like “Fighting in Built Up Areas” (rife with grinding bass, Aroyo’s chant-singing in Bulgarian and Marnie’s soaring vocals) and the dark, club-ready “Destroy Everything You Touch” prove there’s more gong on than nostalgia.

Reviewers seem to be stuck in their own endless loop, insisting on electroclash comparisons and musing over whether or not an all-synth band is, actually, a band. (“We’ve always had guitars on our albums, but they’re more prominent on [Witching Hour],” Hunt revealed to the Portland Mercury. “But many of the guitar sounds are actually … synthesizers.”) But fans aren’t worried about the details.

“Please come to Chile,” one requests on the Myspace site. “I love the Extendedplay [album]. Kiss.” And, closer to home, Boy in Sleep writes, “I’m going to your Asheville show!!! Word.”

Ladytron performs at the Orange Peel Saturday, Sept. 23. 9 p.m., $16 advance, $18 at the door. 255-5851.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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