Co-producing with bandmate Daniel Hunt and featuring several numbers originally written with her day job in mind, Ladytron lead vocalist Helen Marnie doesn’t appear too concerned about making any giant leaps with her solo debut album, Crystal World. Indeed, recorded amongst the beautiful glacial landscapes of Reykjavik, the majority of the album’s ten tracks possess a similarly Arctic quality to the Anglo-Bulgarian quartet’s bewitching brand of austere synth-pop.
Lead single “The Hunter” is a gorgeously shimmering fusion of propulsive bass-lines, skittering percussion and haunting noir-pop hooks which could have been lifted from the band’s 2005 breakthrough, Witching Hour. The widescreen atmospherics of “Hearts On Fire” recall the more epic moments from 2011’s Gravity The Seducer, and “Submariner” simply extends their signature wave of wistful synths, shoegazing melodies and 80s-inspired electro beats for seven emotionally-charged minutes.
Produced by Nine Inch Nails’ Alessandro Cortini, “We Are The Sea” is perhaps the tip of the record’s iceberg, its captivating industrial electronica sound revealing new brooding textures with each listen. But Crystal World is no less spell-binding when Marnie ventures outside her comfort zone.
“Violet Affair” sees her channel the “Summer Of Love” chanteuses of the 60s against a backdrop of swirling psychedelic organs and thumping rock drums. “Laura” is a gorgeously twinkling, nearly a cappella ballad reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s avant-garde pop beginnings. Elsewhere, the stunning fusion of sweeping string and melancholic piano chords of closer “Gold” mines the same ‘Hollywood Sadcore’ vibe as Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” before building up to a deliciously dreamy synth-guitar finale.
Marnie, could have afforded to distance herself from her cult outfit just a little further. But although Crystal World doesn’t quite make the most of the opportunity to test new waters, it’s still a consistently engaging debut which should cement her status as one of electro-pop’s most enchanting vocalists.