The Visit/The Seduction (LTM, 2002) is a reissue-compilation of Ludus’ first two important works, the 1980 ep The Visit and the 1982 full-length The Seduction, both released by New Hormones Records. By 1979, the quartet had been finalized to Linder on vocals, Devine on guitar, Willie Trotter on bass, and drummer Philip “Toby” Tomanov, and the four eagerly set to work on recording their debut release. The Visit was a hit, garnering rave reviews and selling 3,500 copies -- the most success the band would ever have. The high-pitched vocal whine of Linder, the angular, churning guitar of Devine, and the stop-start rhythms produced by Trotter and Tomanov could have little prepared listeners for the avant-gardism of The Seduction, but there are hints of it here, especially on the last song, “I Can’t Swim I Have Nightmares”. It begins conventionally enough with a pounding backbeat, popping bass and sharp guitar chords, but quickly drifts into strange improvisatory realms filled with cavernous drums and squealing saxophones, as well as Linder’s haunting, reverb-drenched yelps. It takes the track a while to get back to the ep’s signature sound, climaxing with the repeated cry that “I’m in control!”
In control of what? It’s unclear, but one can assume that Linder isn’t referring to the music. The chaotic opening of “Mother’s Day” which predates The Seduction points to this new direction in Ludus’ music, teetering on the thin line between open structure and unlistenable noise. At two minutes, it’s something of a mini manifesto, filled with irregular rhythms, avant-prog noodling and harsh, tribal screams. It gives way to the quirky “Anatomy is Not Destiny”, a samba-based jam with an extended instrumental interlude, with two improvising and slightly aimless guitars. The title, obviously referring to Linder's radical feminism, could also apply to the group’s sound: that the anatomy of guitar, bass and drums doesn’t necessarily need to add up to another stale indie record. Tomanov had left the band, replaced by drummer Graham Dowdall, and the music definitely reflects his looser, freeform style. Longer tracks like “Unveiled (A Woman’s Travelogue)” and “Herstory” open up plenty of space for spontaneity and unconventional interactions between the already jagged melodies, falling somewhere between The Raincoats and Henry Cow. Devine fills his playing with Frith-like scrapes and echoes, often bringing the music to an anarchic zero hour before suddenly reintroducing the theme at the drop of a hat. At the same time, songs like “My Cherry is in Sherry” and “The Escape Artist” are perfectly crafted pop gems. Like the music, Linder’s lyrics are at turns ferocious and lyrical, quirky and evocative; they capture the inner life and terrifying position occupied by women in the modern world. The effect of her vocal theatrics, as often noted by friend and admirer Stephen Patrick Morrissey, cannot be understated when estimating the importance of Ludus’ music. The aesthetic bastard child of twin movements whose goals were perhaps closer than one would think, Ludus’ music threw a wrench into the sausage-fest of Manchester and dared its listeners, in the words of “See the Keyhole”: “Would you like to unlock me? Won’t you try to unlock me?” Linder provides her own answer: “I have one of many voices, many as I change my tune.”
1 James Nice, "Ludus: Genius and Damage" (2002/2007)
Ludus - Sightseeing.mp3 (192 kbps, 5.6 mb)
Ludus - The Visit/The Seduction (LTM, 2002)
A note on the release from Allmusic:
The Visit was first released as a 12" EP in 1980; later reissues expanded the set to full length with the addition of songs from the subsequent "My Cherry Is In Sherry" 7" and the Pickpocket cassette, but this set cuts it back to the original four tracks... instead of the extended six-minute version of "My Cherry Is In Sherry" on the original double-EP release of The Seduction, the original 2:38 single mix is here. In the other direction, "Herstory" is presented in a previously unreleased extended version. Also, just to be confusing, the set also throws on two bonus tracks somewhere in the middle, the single sides "Mother's Hour" and the Brazilian-influenced "Anatomy is Not Destiny."
More of Linder's artwork can be found here.