Velocifero, Ladytron's fourth studio album, couldn't have been made by any other band — it's a Ladytron album from the highest shining hi hat to the bottom of its fuzzy synthesized bass. It builds well on the darkling foundations laid by previous release Witching Hour, but is by no means identical.
The band stops at the usual Ladytron lodestones: Gary Numan, Roxy Music, the more deviant side of the Pet Shop Boys — all the English art-pop they're magnetically attracted to. They've also restored the balance of mic time, absent on Witching Hour, between the two contrasting vocalists, sweetly singing Scot Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo, a compellingly monotone Bulgarian.
So what's new? Or, being Ladytron, what's retro-new? Velocifero takes the band's usual jumpy edginess and refines and expands it into glistening paranoiac panoramas. It's not just Aroyo's use of her native language that gives the album a sense of Cold War romance: “Predict the Day” traps Marnie's sung protestations (“I never thought/ I didn't think twice”) between sinister whistling and an oppressive crunching synth. “Season of Illusions” is as wooze-inducing as a flickering overhead light bulb.
But Ladytron have also always had elements of Futuristic Noir and those come across strongly, too. The synthetic, dreamy, blade-running grandeur of “Deep Blue” is reminiscent of a modernized Vangelis or a restrained Jean Michel Jarre. "Runaway" is dark and handsome enough to get away with shamelessly borrowing from Heaven 17's “Let Me Go.”
Velocifero shows Ladytron stepping firmly into the shadows, but not everything is veiled in gloom. The occasional sweet sound or upward lifting chord is all the more effective, silver spotlights in the darkness, and the overall effect is compelling.