When Ladytron morphed from the cold shine of sinewaves that goosebumped throughout their first albums, they stirred up a force and churning. With additions of drums and layered shoegaze guitars, ‘Witching Hour’ was a showcase of dark neon synthpop that half-growled and groaned with unease.
With new live drums added and new darkened synthsounds, are we hearing that same change in making? As Empathy Test move away from their glistened and glossed anxious pop, ‘Monsters’ gives us a glimpse of a future.
Cavernous smacks of blunt open drums add new weight to their waning surroundings. Those new wider synths offer streaks of smeared drones that unravel, spin out and unwind. Above them, a main hook, so close to 80s future-earth sci-fi movies that I swear that I’ve heard it before, spins out its iced repetitions. And as we sift through our collective shared-memory radio of soundtracks and TV-movie theme tunes, we’re gently diverted towards goth-pop’s aesthetics of dry smoke and smudge-eyed androgyny.
‘Monsters’ is equal parts subculture cool, passive violence and vintage geek chik. And In the tangle of tweaked sounds and the tease of nostalgia, we hear Isaac Howlett’s smoothly pained vocals. Like Tamaryn or Marnie, they’re sugared and pining, but they’re more than 80s re-revival; they bring in and tie up with 90s glam-noir with the emotion of of Placebo and Suede.
As the single and lead for new album on way, ‘Monsters’ shows us their change in direction. There’s a satisfying roughness and a welcome fresh depth, and while it won’t right away match that ‘Witching Hour’ power, it’s a sure footed base for beginnings.