Friday, April 17, 2015

Crystal World - Marnie

Crystal World
Pylon Records 34

Marnie is Helen Marnie of Ladytron, a band I'm a big fan of.  I was excited to learn that she made a solo record and when I bought it last year I was not disappointed.  It is a brilliant record.  I can't believe I've yet to hear it on the radio, it is so much better than the vast majority of stuff they are playing.  The record is not a drastic departure from Ladytron, it is not as if she has embraced punk rock or folk.  It was even produced by her bandmate Daniel Hunt (along with the Icelandic composer Bardi Johansson.)  There isn't really a song on here that would sound out of place on a Ladytron album, but the overall impact and feel of the record is different from Ladytron.  It follows the direction introduced on the last Ladytron album "Gravity the Seducer" which had a warmer, more seductive tone than their other albums.  This record goes even farther, it is rich in emotion and romantic feelings and has a more sensuous and sensitive sound.  The opening track "The Hunter" sounds the most like Ladytron.  It has a strong danceable beat and is driven by synthesizers.   Marnie coolly croons the lyrics which are a return to the heartless femme fatale persona she often adopted with Ladytron.  It is a fabulous, entrancing song that should have been a hit single.  She leaves the dance floor for the dreamy "We are the Sea" which is an inviting love song that uses the natural world to represent human relations, a technique she used quite a bit on "Gravity the Seducer" and she employs it throughout this album as well.  This is certainly true of "Hearts on Fire" which a moody piece of synth pop that examines the role of love in the struggles of everyday life.  It is a gorgeous song bolstered by Marnie double tracking her vocal creating a lovely harmony vocal that adds to the impact of the song.  Very romantic.  Side two opens with "Violet Affair" which is another dreamy love song with a lush sound.  "The Wind Breezes On" features one of Marnie's most beautiful vocal performances ever.  I believe this exquisite song is about finding oneself.  "Sugarland" has a more pronounced beat and a mechanical riff that sounds more like Ladytron as do the dark, apocalyptic lyrics.  The song has a dense sound that adds to its gloominess.  "High Road" is one of my favorite songs on the record.  It has a driving, hypnotic riff and a sexy groove that provide the setting for Marnie's alluring vocal.  The lyrics are seductive and inviting with a desperate edge worthy of Bruce Springsteen.  This synth pop torch song impresses me enormously, I've listened to it a bunch of times and it still sends me.  Side three opens with "Laura" which is the track that departs the farthest from Ladytron's style, it doesn't even have percussion.  It is atmospheric dream pop with almost a gothic feel to it reminiscent of Kate Bush.  Nature imagery abounds in this ode to a lost loved one.  The beat returns for the more uptempo "Submariner" which features a romantic description of a man who has given his heart to the sea in what I believe is a song about commitment.  There are some lovely synthesizer passages in this song and it builds relentlessly to a powerful climax before gracefully fading out.  The album concludes with the supremely romantic and poetic "Gold."  The title of the album comes from the lyrics of this song, the "crystal world" that gave birth to the love described in the song and almost the entire record as well.  It is the most beautiful song on the record and like "Submariner" it builds in strength giving the album a majestic finish.  The lyrics are loaded with memorable imagery and I find the song deeply moving.  It is a testament to her growth as an artist.  Side 4 is blank aside from an impression of Marnie's logo in the vinyl.  Such a wonderful album, it validates the album as an art form.  The songs build off each other and the pervasive themes of love and the natural world give the record a satisfying cohesiveness and resonance.  I believe this is one of the best records of the 2000's.  Since I bought it last year, I've played it more than any other record and it still thrills me every time.  I hope that Marnie does not quit her day job, I adore Ladytron and their kinetic charms.  With Ladytron Marnie has been extremely effective ripping into the lady-killers and the guys who have wronged her.  However I think her true talent is revealed as a solo artist, her vision is more profound and expressive when released from the constraints of the dance floor.  She is immensely talented and I can't wait for her to make another solo record.  Recommended for Ladytron fans who wish they weren't so cynical.

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