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Time's Arrow is a collection of damn fine synth-pop from Ladytron

"Time's Arrow"

Release date: 20 January 2023
8/10
Ladytron times arrow art
18 January 2023, 00:00 Written by Simon Heavisides
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Born into a world where electroclash was being hailed as a viable genre and Fischerspooner were, for at least fifteen minutes, tipped as a ‘next big thing’ Ladytron’s chances of longevity may have appeared remote.

But, as they approach their twenty-fourth year of existence, time has revealed them as artists of far greater depth and value than most of their largely forgotten ex-contemporaries.

Still, it must be frustrating to be greeted with the usual synth pop cliches that drag over the bones of the '80s and use adjectives such as ‘icy’ and ‘cold’. Particularly when, beyond the superficial, Ladytron are far from '80s throwbacks, instead taking inspiration from the wider synth pop heritage whilst moving on into the future via music that is actually capable of radiating a beatific warmth despite the inescapable darkness.

Although not every Ladytron album has been met with universal acclaim, even within their own fan base, nevertheless each one has marked an evolutionary step that has seen them refine and develop their sound to create something immediately identifiable.

With Time’s Arrow they may have made their most consistent record yet. Perhaps that extended hiatus before 2019’s self-titled release allowed them to appreciate the band’s strengths and to isolate what sets Ladytron apart from the synth-pop clones favouring artifice over substance. Whatever lies behind it, the result seems to have been to enhance their confidence, something supremely evident throughout these ten tracks.

Certainly they couldn’t have chosen a more effective opener: “City of Angels” luxuriates in those oceans’ deep analogue synth waves as the music swirls ever more intensely around a song that appears to look with a mixture of awe and unease at the mirage created by Hollywood’s sleight of hand.

I wouldn’t wish to overdo the oceanic metaphors but when there’s a piece here entitled “Sargasso Sea”, it’s hard to resist. Rich in electronic textures, it’s a hallucinatory voyage towards a distant horizon and seems to point towards the title track itself where the inescapable slipstream of time inevitably swallows all.

Defying the years and possibly expectations, Time’s Arrow sees a band revitalised, creating music with those rare qualities of nuance and complexity, flowing in a dreamlike state where, just maybe, darkness loses the battle against light.

Or, if you prefer, it’s simply a collection of damn fine synth-pop. The choice is yours.

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