Ladytron – Light and Magic

Fifteen years ago this week saw the initial release of Ladytron‘s second album Light and Magic. The UK release wouldn’t follow until close to Christmas time but did add some extra tracks, so we’ll focus on the initial set of fifteen.

The album opens with perhaps Ladytron‘s noisiest piece to date, True Mathematics, in which Russian spoken vocals repeat over an exquisitely noisy backing track. This leads into the opening single, the glorious Seventeen, which was a minor hit in December 2002. It’s a piece about the throwaway attitudes in the world of fashion, and gave the group their first taste of the official UK charts when it peaked at number 68.

Flicking Your Switch is a gloriously dirty piece of electronica which harks back to early 1990s dance – a genre which was considerably younger then than this album itself is now. Which is a sobering thought. Fifteen years later, this sounds exquisitely timeless – perhaps because it was always out of time, it has dated surprisingly well.

Fire is a strange one – it’s catchier than most of the tracks on here, but somehow it doesn’t quite work as well for me. The retro disco sounds and cowbells of Turn it On, on the other hand, are undeniably brilliant.

By 2002, Ladytron were on the verge of hitting the big time – after the first album featured one single just outside the UK Top 100 and one just inside, this time they were close to hitting the top 40. Second single Blue Jeans was very nearly their breakthrough hit, peaking at number 43 in March 2003. Unfortunately that commercial breakthrough never really happened – to date, that’s still their second biggest hit. Which it probably should be, just a little higher up the charts, ideally.

There are a lot of tracks on here – probably way too many, actually, although many are short, such as Cracked LCD, which only clocks in at a couple of minutes in length. But often the longer tracks aren’t quite up to scratch somehow – Black Plastic definitely isn’t as good, anyway.

The third and final single was Evil, which appears here in what initially appears to be a much more spacious five-and-a-half minute form. It’s a good song, but on balance, it probably isn’t quite as good as Blue Jeans, although you can see how it might have resonated with some people at the time. It turns out anyway that most of the extra space is taken up by an untitled bonus track which got trimmed off the single version.

Startup Chime is one of the more melodic tracks in Ladytron‘s catalogue, more of which is always welcome, although there’s something brilliantly catchy about NuHorizons too, even though it doesn’t really feature any singing. Then Cease2xist restores that particular balance, albeit hidden behind a lot of processing, with a great synth-driven pop song.

By this stage you should have just about got the hang of Ladytron – they’re challenging, and often quite loud, but often also reward you with a great song or at least some interesting noises. You’re also irritatingly close to the end though now, and so Re:agents feels a bit like filler too.

But it’s the penultimate and title track that pulls the biggest punch of all. Light and Magic is completely fantastic. The bass arpeggio seems to be completely out of sync with everything else, but somehow it works together wonderfully. It’s catchy and brilliant, and somehow feels as though it belongs at least four decades earlier. I’m not sure I would want to see them try to perform it live though.

Closing the album is another catchy piece, The Reason Why. When the vocal counter-melody comes in a minute or so from the end, you might find you get one of those moments where you hope the album never ends. Truly glorious.

For me, Light and Magic is far and away Ladytron‘s finest work, but as I’ve been told many times on this blog, it isn’t my opinion that matters, it’s what the public think, and for many their first exposure to the quartet would have been when Destroy Everything You Touch was all over the radio, so of course it is 2005’s Witching Hour that they remember. Either way, hopefully we can agree that Light and Magic is an excellent second album.

The version that you want of Light and Magic is probably the 2011 remaster, although honestly I much prefer the artwork from the original UK release.

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Unsigned Act – Blue Swan (and Subculture)

With this blog and the radio shows that came before it, I have always tried to keep some space available for unsigned artists, but honestly giving them the chance to be written about or to appear on an actual radio station yields surprisingly poor results. In the end, I only ever covered two unsigned acts on my old radio show Music for the Masses (2004-2005), one of whom was Blue Swan.

I must have contacted them via email, and wrote the following…

The duo consists of Henrik Jürgensen, 31, the vocalist and a soon-to-be qualified accountant, and Kasper Lauest, 30, who is the producer and also a psychologist (in the band?) They have been producing music since late 1999, when they met on the first Pet Shop Boys internet forum at Dotmusic, discovering by chance that they had gone to the same high school, one class apart, so they decided to meet up.

They listened to each other’s music, and both liked what they heard. When they heard about the Pet Shop Boys fan tribute project Attribute, they decided to record a cover of A New Life. They liked the result, so continued working together. They continue the story:

Last August, we released our first “virtual” album Sinister But Fragile. The track Black Widow was supposed to have been recorded by a famous Danish artist for her international debut album, but the deal fell through.

They are situated around Copenhagen, Denmark. All of their songs are recorded in their home studio in Kasper’s house. They write their songs together, sometimes in collaboration with Kasper’s younger brother Jakob.

The track Black Widow was done as an instrumental entitled Brutal, written by Kasper and his brother. When Henrik heard it, he absolutely loved it and wrote the lyrics and melody line on top of it. All synth sounds on Black Widow were made using an Access Virus C, while the beat was programmed using Reason 2.5.

Their virtual album Sinister But Fragile can be heard and downloaded in its entirety for free at (a website which no longer exists).

Their favourite band is the Pet Shop Boys, and Kasper’s favourite TV show is 24.

If you’re wondering, the other unsigned act we featured on the show was Subculture, but my only notes for them read as follows:

  • “Trash pop”
  • New Order
  • The Human League
  • David Bowie
  • OMD
  • Suede
  • Ladytron

Ross (vocals), Mace (synth), Matt (guitar), and Julia (bass).

You can read our most recent feature on Blue Swan here. If you’re unsigned and want some coverage, please get in touch using the form on the “Are You Unsigned” page.

Peel Sessions – Ladytron, 5 December 2001

I have to say, I love the fact that Ladytron recorded a John Peel session – but then, if you were around in 2001 and didn’t there was probably something wrong with you.

This was the era of their naïve but lovely debut album 604, and most of the tracks appear there. Opening the set is the noisy, and frankly not that great, Zmeyka. On the album it’s just a bit too experimental to be beautiful, but in its Peel Session form, frankly it’s just noise.

Next comes Holiday 601, later commercially released on the second album Light and Magic as NuHorizons. Since they already had an album full of great electronic music to draw from, you do have to wonder slightly why they were messing around making daft noises with pieces like this, but that’s obviously their prerogative – getting studio time to record some experimental pieces and getting them on the radio is no mean feat.

Another Breakfast with You is the full vocal piece that we had all been waiting for, and honestly it’s rather good. As always, it’s a lot more raw and unpolished than the album version, but it sounds great, particularly with its new ending. More please.

They oblige with the last track, the brilliant Discotraxx, complete with a healthy helping of portamento, and sounding truly fantastic. If Zmeyka made you question yourself somewhat, this is the reminder that Ladytron really are fantastic. Mira Aroyo‘s (I’m guessing) Bulgarian vocals come across particularly well here too.

This session is not commercially available.

Chart for stowaways – 30 April 2016

Now let’s take a look at this week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (II)
  3. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP
  4. Pet Shop Boys – Twenty-Something
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Sad Robot World
  6. Jean-Michel Jarre & Little Boots – If..!
  7. Front 242 – Lovely Day / Take One
  8. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  9. Ladytron – Runaway
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum

Music for the Masses 38 – 30 April 2005

The Live Bit, launched only the preceding week as a new feature, quickly turned out to be way too much trouble and was downsized to just one track, but the Electromix would continue for the rest of the show’s run, this week starring Leeds’s own Utah Saints as the centrepiece.

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Show 38: Sat 30 Apr 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Apollo 440.

  • Moloko – The Time is Now
  • System F – Insolation
  • Faithless feat. Boy George – Why Go?
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Remix)
  • Apollo 440 – Astral America
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Clarke & Ware Experiment – Communication (from Music for Multiple Dimensions)
  • New Order feat. Ana Matronic – Jetstream (Richard X Remix)
  • LCD Soundsystem – Disco Infiltrator
  • Heaven 17 – Being Boiled (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Amorphous Androgynous – The Mello Hippo Disco Show
  • Apollo 440 – Pain in Any Language
  • Moby – I Like It
  • M83 – Teen Angst (Montag Mix)
  • Lemon Jelly – Make Things Right
  • The Flirts – Passion
  • Apollo 440 – Heart Go Boom
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans [Electromix]
  • Utah Saints – Love Song [Electromix]
  • Piney Gir – Girl [Electromix]
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Music for the Masses 36 – 16 March 2005

Show 36 was the last before the three week Easter break, and would see Music for the Masses in its springtime Wednesday slot for the last time. Actually, it could have even been the last outing of the show, as the post-holiday scheduling shakeup always meant a few shows dropped out. Fortunately – or unfortunately – it lived on to die another day, this week with New Order as the Artist of the Week.

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Show 36: Wed 16 Mar 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: New Order.

  • Chicane – No Ordinary Morning
  • Veto Silver – Neon Lites
  • Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor Mix)
  • Sylver – Who Am I?
  • Andy Pickford – Zweifarbig Bomber (Part 2)
  • Télépopmusik – Don’t Look Back
  • New Order – Blue Monday
  • Alizée – Moi… Lolita
  • Ladytron – Seventeen
  • Daft Punk – Robot Rock
  • Vic Twenty – I Sold Your Heart on eBay
  • Black Box Recorder – The Facts of Life
  • Annie – Always Too Late
  • New Order – True Faith
  • Depeche Mode – Only When I Lose Myself
  • Dusted – Always Remember to Honour and Respect Your Mother (Part 2)
  • Basement Jaxx – Good Luck
  • Komputer – Looking Down on London
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android – Marvin
  • New Order – Krafty
  • Lemon Jelly – Come Down on Me
  • Lionrock – Rude Boy Rock

Music for the Masses 30 – 2 February 2005

For the seven-week Spring term of 2005, Music for the Masses returned with a Wednesday slot, and was an entirely relaxed affair, with the presenter sitting back and operating the controls with his legs crossed. Or maybe I was just posing for the webcam – it’s difficult to know for sure.

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Show 30: Wed 2 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Retrospective of 2004, with predictions for 2005 (no artist of the week).

  • Kings of Convenience – Misread
  • Delerium feat. Zoë Johnston – You & I
  • Goldfrapp – Strict Machine
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Ewan Pearson Extended Remix)
  • Dirty Vegas – Human Love
  • Bent – I Can’t Believe it’s Over
  • Air – Another Day
  • Zero 7 – Home
  • Duran Duran – (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
  • Mylo – Drop the Pressure
  • Basement Jaxx – Good Luck
  • Télépopmusik – Love Can Damage Your Health
  • Röyksopp – So Easy
  • Lemon Jelly – Only Time
  • Moby – Lift Me Up
  • Daft Punk – Around the World
  • New Order – Ruined in a Day (K-Klass Remix)
  • Erasure – No Doubt
  • Faithless – Why Go?
  • Client – It’s Rock & Roll
  • Sohodolls – Prince Harry
  • Ladytron – Seventeen
  • Deep Forest – Will You Be Ready?