Thursday, August 13, 2009
#140. 'Anything that may delay you might just save you'
Will anyone remember the elctroclash movement? I'm sure it still has its vocal proponents, ones who still buy new Peaches albums and wear Fischerspooner shirts to the clubs every weekend, but in terms of lasting impact it seems to be one of those movements that really wasn't. Sure the big names are still making their stuff, though at least Fischerspooner have expanded their sound, but the genre may as well have died before it made the waves it wanted to.
I'm not mourning it, not in the least, but I'm really wondering why Ladytron got folded into it at the beginning. To be fair I haven't heard their sophomore album Lights and Magic, but 604 always struck me as too icy and detached to get lumped in with the slightly more effervescent trapping of the genre at its inception. You couldn't really dance to "He Took Her to a Movie" or "Playgirl," they had more in common with early 80s cold wave than the rest of electroclash's major names. 2005's The Witching Hour was maybe a bit closer as far as dancability goes, but that's discounting the dark, claustrophobic production. It was almost like post-punk turned indie electronic as opposed to the more fashionable stuff on electroclash. It also contained the single best moment associated with the genre in "Destroy Everything You Touch."
As much as I praise songs with effective buildups, there's also something particularly entrancing about songs that stay at the same level of intensity the whole time. Much as dynamics have come to play a role in most genres, when a song makes no attempt to ramp up or down at any point it's makes the whole endeavor that much more hypnotic. "Destroy" has exactly one build up: th first 15 seconds of the song. After that it rides pretty much the same beat through the rest of the song. It could be boring, but there's little changes that pop up whose presence is made that much more noticeable by the lack of change in the main aspects of the song. Slight changes in keyboard tone, odd little background riffs, things that might pass by unnoticed are so readily heard that they immediately add to the song's character.
But really what it's all about is the vocals of Mira Aroyo. Given that my initial exposure to the band was through 604's "He Took Her to a Movie" I was convinced that they'd switched vocalists for Witching Hour, but looking back it's obviously the same person. The vocals on "Destroy" seem to be distorted in some way, not like guitar distortion but like singing through a slightly faulty microphone, but her icy demeanor fro the early singles is still there. Applying it to this type of song though makes them sound a bit evil in addition to cold and distant. The lyrics aren't really of much importance, but with Aroyo's weirdly intimate yet robotic vocals they manage to achieve an odd sense of evocativeness, especially the key line: 'Please destroy me this way'. If the song is to be taken at face value, that line seems t osignal an attraction to danger or a need to be consumed by it, but with the vocal tome Aroyo applies to it the whole thing sounds a bit...mundane. So dangerousness is mundane and lack of dynamics is entrancing. Is it any wonder that this is the song I'm gonna remember Ladytron for?