Marnie - Crystal World
Electro-revivalism and crystalline future-folk on Ladytron singer solo debut
(Les Disques du Crepuscule)
Helen Marnie has a hard job ahead of her, carrying off those press shots on her own where the stylish pan-sexual majesty of her sometime band Ladytron’s pictures continued to be an otherworldly sight to behold. We’re sure she’ll manage, but just so the link isn’t severed completely, this ice-cool selection of shimmering nouveau synth-pop has undoubtedly been bolstered by the presence of Ladytron’s guiding hand Daniel Hunt in the producer’s booth.
Funded via PledgeMusic, recorded in Iceland in 2012 with help from Bang Gang’s Bardi Johannsson and finally released after some delays, it’s a highly confident package with a real sense of its own identity, although it’s probably best enjoyed as a whole without trying to dig out individually arresting radio hits. At once there’s a warmth and a reserved distance to Marnie’s voice, as if she were a French chanteuse singing in an echoing, empty club, and it’s probably this quality which invites comparisons with Stereolab and in particular the vocal style of Laetitia Sadier on ‘The Wind Breezes On’ and the lengthy, glistening ‘Submariner’.
Yet the electro-revivalist milieu from which Ladytron first sprang remains the overriding musical feature here, and tracks like the opening trio ‘The Hunter’, ‘We Are the Sea’ and ‘Hearts on Fire’ call to mind the bubblegum sophistication of latterday Human League, albeit without that group’s harmonic Susan’n’ Joanne dynamic. The album mellows as it progresses, and those imagined French influences become more pronounced, not to mention a previously-unheard but welcome quality to Marnie’s voice. Born, raised and now once more based in Glasgow, she allows a certain Caledonian buzz to enter her voice on the frosty ballads ‘Laura’ and ‘Gold’, possibly the most affecting tracks here. They suggest that maybe her future isn’t on the dancefloor, but in the same kind of crystalline future-folk style which Alison Goldfrapp has made such a virtue of.