on 24 October 2011
I first heard of this band from their collaboration with the Gorillaz on the album 'Plastic Beach'. The I discovered the moving video for 'Twice' on Youtube and I thought 'I have to hear more from this group'.
I only just learned today that this album is their 3rd, listening to it and the album simply called 'Little Dragon' I'd assumed that Ritual Union was an earlier album because it is more minimalist, maybe a tiny bit more experimental. Its good to know that they're looking to make their sound even more avante guarde and not just try to please a larger mainstream audience.
The band's sound is mainly due to the understated and husky lyrics of Yukimi Nagano. The album uses a variety of beats and melodies and there's only as many instruments as are necessary, nevermore. Songs like 'Summertearz' are striking due to a beat which is reminiscent of some 'world' music from South Africa. All in all the album has a haunting quality and a sad tone but the music is beautiful. Well worth a listen.
Taking a simple riff and building through it a dance track that entrances and lingers seems to be what Dubstep has turned into recently. A movement that was easily dismissed before this year is now becoming one of the most interesting and rewarding musical areas in 2011. Little Dragon's third album is no exception to this. Its a poppy type of music that is akin to dubstep, RnB and Pop. They sound quite unique really and whilst this amalgam might be messy in someone elses hands Little Dragon make it work. Where this really works though is with Yukimi Nagano's vocals. She has a voice that suits the music on offer here and really hooks the listener in.
The structures of tracks here are around riffs that are repeated throughout and added to during the track. Little Man has a simple riff, percussion and keyboards combine to create a great linger tune. The immediacy of the title track is obvious - it is instantly memorable and works fantastically. However, that's not always true of the rest of the album. Tracks like Please Turn and Nightlight are growers and really work on repeated listens. Don't get me wrong they hang around the head after first listen but its on repeated plays they grow to be the great tracks they are.
This isn't to everyone's taste. It lacks the bombast and danceability that some may want. But in its understated way this album will grow on you and become one of 2011 better efforts.
Having sounded like a stuck record recommending the wonders of Sweden's Radio Dept, a move across the country from that bands home in Lund in the extreme south to Gothenburg on the West coast is now order. Here we find located the equally wonderful "Little Dragon" comprising the intriguing and forthright Swedish-Japanese singer Yukimi Nagano (vocals, percussion) plus fellow band members Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass), and Rashik Aryal (keyboards). Like Radio Dept this band specialise in creating bold electronic landscapes but probably owe a greater debt to the pop sensibilities of Blondie and Prince than the shoe gaze preoccupation's of the former. This is unsurprising not least with the enchanting vocals of Nagana who can sound like Prince, Bjork and a myriad of other artists. Listen to the title track "Ritual Union" with is sparkling electronic rush and you quickly release that it could have appeared on "Graffiti bridge" and by doing so increased the quality of that album tenfold. When she rather cheekily asks in the song "If you want him, girl, could you share?/Cuz that's the deal now, if you dare" you sense that she is not going to take "no" for an answer. The pounding "Cystalfilm" is fundamentally great pop music with a dance floor ethic. Its that sort of track that heads down your musical burrow like an old stoat and refuses to leave. Its effortlessly cool and destined to be mixed by a thousand aspring producers.
Throughout the electronic backdrop is never intrusive and as with the considerable restraint shown in the new Wild Beasts album many songs build slowly but surely with careful layer upon layers of sound, controlled to perfection without a note out of place. On one of the albums standout tracks "Please turn" a ticking almost Kraftwerk style opening mutates into a sinister yet erotic dance track with Nagana's yearning vocals at the core. Indeed we are probably watching a star being born in a insteller burst in front of our eyes and many of you will have already heard her voice playing a key part on Gorillaz "Plastic Beach LP (Damon Albarn knows a good thing when he hears it). The weird noises in the backdrop of "Brush the heat" should not distract from what is a brilliant minimalist electronic funk track which Fever Ray would give her right arm to have penned. Granted on "Little Man" the frothy side of the band comes to the fore but it is very catchy and you suspect could be huge hit. The band are careful to vary their plays, thus on the albums two concluding tracks we have firstly the shimmering beats of "When I go out" which would equally be at home on a Panthu du Prince album while "Seconds" is a quirky ambient instrumental which sadly ends the album on a bit of damp squib. This misstep is subject to very able redress with the bell like clinical funk workout of the excellent "Summertearz" and most of all the rolling noise synth fest that is "Precious" which reminds me of the great Lewis Taylor (yes its that good) plus "Nightlight" which Prince should be drip fed to regain his muse.
Overall "Ritual Union" is smart pop music with a first class honours degree, it is every bit the equal of that other attention grabbing 2011 album of Swedish electro pop funk namely Lykke Li's polished diamond "Wounded Rhymes". Why Sweden has come to such predominance with its many and varied bands of supreme quality in recent years requires a PhD level inquiry, what is certain is that Little Dragon on "Ritual Union" (their third album in four years) proudly sit in that sterling linage and deserve huge international success. All quite remarkable really.
on 30 July 2011
I love this album. It is Little Dragon trying something new which they do brilliantly.
First off, the CD case is cardboard. Meaningful cover and hand written logo. The back cover is a nice colour of green with the tracklisting and title of the album.
A very nice CD case to have on your shelf.
This album is all about experimenting with weird sounds to make beats and tunes. And then getting their brilliant vocalist to connect it all together like pop glue. Although the sounds are unique in themselves.
The song ritual union, is not the highlight of the album but still a very good track. And a memorable one as well. My favourite tracks on the album would be Little Man, Please Turn, Nightlight, When i go Out and Seconds.
When I Go Out is an interesting track, creating a tune out of basically just a beat and an alien voice. But still it is really nice to have playing in the background.
My only complaint would be in Brush the Heat (Which i also love) there is a really screamy sound which did not sound so great on my stereo.
All in all, great album ,great sounds, and great choruses.
Just wish it was longer!
on 1 February 2012
'Ritual Union' was recommended to me by my eldest daughter. I have listened to this Little Dragon CD every day since purchasing it. The combination of Scandinavian electronic patterns and quirky Oriental influenced vocal styles immediately grabs the attention. This selection of eleven tracks displays an upbeat, pop, inventiveness with catchy, intriguing lyrics. A welcome addition to my music collection. I am grateful to my daughter for her exquisite taste.
on 30 July 2011
After listening to Little Dragon's previous albums such as their self titled album, 'Feather' from their second album 'Machine Dreams' and Yukimi Nagano's contribution to Gorillaz 'Plastic Beach' with the songs 'Empire Ants' and 'To Binge', I knew this album was a must buy and to be honest, I was not disappointed! With great songs such as Ritual Union, Little Man, Shuffle a Dream, When I Go Out, Seconds and probably the best song in the album Please Turn, why wouldn't I like this album? Though at first I wasn't particulary sure if I liked it, I never realised how much an album could grow on me (except Gorillaz Plastic beach of course). I'm definitely now a fan of Little Dragon and if their future albums are anything like this, I certainly won't stop!
on 13 September 2011
not 1 thing wrong with this album.I picked this up after hearing a couple of there songs on gilles peterson not really sure i would like it but it is superb really interesting sound and Yukimi is amazinggggggggggggggg
on 3 November 2011
Love the sound, synth revival at it's best although stills manages to sound new and fresh.
Cool laid back vocals great beats and feel, worth a look
on 7 September 2011
Interestingly Little Dragon have moved ever-so-slightly away from the playfulness of their earlier records and towards a more bass-orientated kind of music. The album still retains their core style, but the future bass (a post-dubstep genre that a lot of people fled to after dubstep became so commercialised) influence is clear, there are moments that wouldn't sound entirely alien in a George Fitzgerald or Hudson Mohawke song. The whole thing is packed with synths, 'Summertearz' is like a future bass song at half speed, and there are even some eerier moments, especially in 'When I Go Out'. Perhaps if you're not a listener of bass music then this move would come as a surprise and my descriptions might even sound disparaging, but this movement seems almost natural at a time when a singer like Thom Yorke makes song with Burial. There's something about emotive voices that really lends them to minimal bass driven music.
Furthermore, Little Dragon manage this shift without losing any of the vivacity or freshness that I personally love them for. Yukimi, as always, delivers stunning vocals that are haunting but warm, playful but melancholic.
I do hope they create something as astonishingly powerful and affecting as my favourite Little Dragon song 'Twice' again, which seems very far away from these songs, although admittedly it was never especially alike any other Little Dragon song (or any other song?). Overall though, this is a fantastic album, perhaps not an absolute 10 out of 10 classic on level with The Beatles, but certainly a fun fresh move in a new direction with some real substance behind it. Absolutely worth buying.
on 26 December 2012
i love this cd i have give it to a number of friends and family now they are hooked as well.
no dislikes or regrets