Liverpool UK group Ladytron are celebrating the 20th anniversary of what many consider their definitive album, 2002’s ‘Light&Magic’.
To commemorate, the group have assembled unseen archive material from the time, including a teaser reel, a short film of them recording the album in Los Angeles, and an unreleased music video for the title track, shot on slide film, which had lay incomplete for two decades.
Now, the band release a new short performance film for the standout album track True Mathematics, shot at the 2002 ‘Light&Magic’ tour shows in London and Manchester and forgotten for 20 years. “True Mathematics” is one of several songs on the album that vocalist Mira Aroyo sang in her native Bulgarian.
“We first started experimenting with Bulgarian on Commodore Rock off ‘604,’ because the language has such a different rhythm. We hadn’t planned on writing more songs in Bulgarian, but the instrumental for True Maths screamed out for something hard and staccato – kind of like The Normal’s Warm Leatherette. We pushed the sound of the language to be as percussive and metallic as possible, beyond the way it naturally is. Live, the song took on a life of its own – it became even harder, almost heavy metal. Also not many bands open their sets with a song in a foreign language, so it felt like a statement of intent. ” – Mira Aroyo
Added band member Daniel Hunt, “We realized was there was little record of how the band was in the flesh at that moment, late 2002. Nobody had phones with cameras, let alone video. It was Ladytron at its most punk. There was a still a lot of confusion about what we were. Still is. Going through the archives we found these tapes that our UK label had shot in the first days of the tour, and had been long forgotten about. They capture a unique group when it was just hitting its stride, at the very beginning of a world tour for ‘Light&Magic’ that would last a whole year.” Watch the video clip via YouTube below.
True Mathematics is the last of the series of short films, leading up to Ladytron appearing as guests on Tim’s Twitter Listening Party on the anniversary of the album’s release on September 17.
It follows the release of the visual for the album’s title track and for Black Plastic, which consists of archived material taken during the recording of Ladytron’s second album in Los Angeles, April-June 2002.
“Black Plastic is a little time capsule of our 2002 recording sessions in Hollywood for ‘Light&Magic’,” says Ladytron’s Daniel Hunt. “We are kids. We look ready to take on the world. Hazy, nostalgic, and how we remember it.”
“When we released ‘Light&Magic’ it was expected that the title track would be a later single, and would therefore need a video clip of its own. But we were on tour and didn’t know how it would be done. We had all this beautiful slide film shot and envisaged animating it in some way, like a 1970s science fiction title sequence – ‘Sapphire and Steel’ or something like that. We disappeared on the road, plans changed, and ideas were forgotten. Twenty years later here it is.”
Originally released in September 2002 on Emperor Norton Records, Light&Magic was a critical success. The BBC named the album among 16 albums that defined 2002, and it made Rolling Stone’s top 50 for the year. Broadsheet The Telegraph called it “stunning”, New Musical Express declared the album “one step ahead of the rest”, while Uncut described Ladytron’s second record as “sublime, subtle, subversive stuff”.
The dance music press in particular embraced the group. Jockey Slut called Ladytron “the best pop act in Britain”, Muzik made Light&Magic their electro pop album of 2002, whilst DJ called it “dazzling”, insisting that it “blows most contemporary home-spun, dance-influenced pop music out of the water”.
Mixmag proclaimed “You’ll believe that Ladytron are the only band you ever really liked”.
The group were lauded as leaders of the new electro pop and electroclash scenes then flourishing, and ‘Light&Magic’ went on to be influential, for both independent and mainstream electronic pop music which followed, with some of the biggest artists flocking to the new sound. Christina Aguilera personally inviting the group to write and produce tracks for her album Bionic.
In 2021, the album’s lead single Seventeen went top 10 after viralizing on TikTok introducing a new generation to Ladytron’s music.
More recently The Weeknd played Seventeen on his radio show Momento Mori, which showcases music that influenced him. The Los Angeles Times wrote: “The group’s Krautrock and French electronica-infused sounds have influenced more than a decade of artists, from Goldfrapp to Beach House to Lady Gaga.”.
In oral history of early-2000s New York City ‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’, Larry Tee, founder of the electroclash festival and the scene’s flagship parties at Brooklyn’s Club Luxx described how the idea came about when he “found a lot of the new electro acts, like Peaches, Chicks on Speed, DJ Hell, Ladytron.” Rolling Stone editor Rob Sheffield then remarks “It’s funny that the kind of sound that they were doing at Club Luxx, six years later Lady Gaga was selling out Madison Square Garden with it”.
Twenty years since its release Ladytron’s influential Light&Magic is receiving new and deserved attention.