The Age JUNE 5, 2009 - by Craig Mathieson


Ladytron love the detritus of the modern age - what they call the weird stuff that humanity has created.

It's an "extremely hot" day in Austin, Texas, according to Ladytron's Reuben Wu, as the band wend their way through an extensive American tour. But the quartet are focused on an excursion they are planning for the following day.

"Tomorrow on our day off in New Mexico we're going to check out the White Sands Desert," says the Liverpool-born musician. "It's in the middle of nowhere and that's where they did testing for the Manhattan Project. That's our day trip: nuclear testing and derelict military machinery."

Wu and his bandmates - Mira Aroyo, Helen Marnie and Daniel Hunt - are fascinated by the detritus of the modern age. "We get excited about the really weird stuff that humanity has created: weird hippy communes in the desert, missile testing grounds, abandoned buildings in the middle of nowhere," he explains.

The correlation between that interest and the music they make could not be clearer. Ladytron's four albums of the past ten years, particularly 2005's Witching Hour and last year's Velocifero, are a unique body of work, a dense electronic amalgam of analog and digital instrumentation that speaks of a fractured world. Elegiac hymns to overwhelming force sit alongside spectral invocations: they are ghosts in their own machines.

"We've never been that band that's been hyped. We've never been on magazine covers. It's cool that we're still doing what we love and getting better at it and getting more success," Wu says. "Things get easier. We used to manage ourselves and now we don't. We used to do all the art work ourselves, but now we can get people we respect to work on it.

"We're a lot more comfortable with who we are musically and how we work together."

Having just finished opening for Depeche Mode on a stadium tour of Eastern Europe, Ladytron are to play at the exclusive Luminous Festival at the Sydney Opera House, an event curated by musical maven Brian Eno.

Wu says Ladytron was honoured to be approached, although they had a sympathiser in Eno's camp all along.

"Helen and Mira were loading stuff into their car in Oxford, England, after a gig and a girl came up and introduced herself to them as Brian Eno's daughter. She said she was a Ladytron fan and had introduced her dad to us," Wu recalls. "A few days later we got a call from his people asking us to play. It's a huge honour for us, not just because it's Eno but also because the venue is the Sydney Opera House."

The group's next unexpected first will occur later this year when pop superstar Christina Aguilera releases her next album, to include a series of collaborations with Ladytron. "It is, obviously, a strange experience," says Wu, who was surprised to find CDs by Elastica and CSS in Aguilera's car last time he visited her in Los Angeles.

Expect the resulting tracks to satisfy Ladytron's interest in really weird stuff that humanity has created.