Little Dragon - Ritual Union (Peacefrog)

02 Aug 2011

“The secret of Ritual Union’s success is that the tracks nearly always threaten greatness, but are happy to just stay excellent, hinting at their promise instead...”; release – 2011

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Sweden’s Little Dragon are already three albums into their career now, but you could be forgiven for thinking that the only people that took notice of 2009’s Machine Dreams were hip hop producers and indie megastars. Big Boi, David Sitek, Andre 300, DJ Shadow– and most poptastically – Damon Albarn, all sat up and listened to their spidery, very lean but always strangely alien brand of Europop.

Ritual Unionis an album of frequency fun, with tones constantly in flux, rhythms fluttering from live drums to programmed and back again the come hither/fuck off vocal of frontwoman (and it’s already hard to think of the band without her) Yukimi Nagano.

There’s very little to discuss about any particular Little Dragon song, and that’s thrown some off the scent. This is all about accumulation. The secret of Ritual Union’s success is that the tracks nearly always threaten greatness, but are happy to just stay excellent, hinting at their promise instead. It could be the slow burn of ‘Precious’, which morphs into a Hot Chip smoulder before fizzing to its fade, or the Prince-sexy arrogant swagger of ‘Little Man’, but the album is packed with tracks that saunter into your mind, working up a metronomic rush, then flit out, only to be recalled in memories, and it’s enchanting.

There’s a synth moment on ‘When I Go Out’ which is a case in point: the whole thing could escalate into an overblown Massive Attackanthem – which I’m sure they’ve got in them, but instead it blossoms inwards, with glitchy, skittering drum patterns underlaying some really quite odd flourishes. It’s like they’ve totally mastered what isn’t there, the art of the minimal, and it’s very effective indeed.

Then there’s the title track, the summer ‘smash’ that never really goes anywhere, never really does anything, but somehow sticks in your head (due in no small part to Nagano’s voice). Built around a kind of ping pong bassline and a fragment of a vocal melody, all the components gel so well, it sounds like it could only ever have come from a bunch of school friends (which Little Dragon are of course).

 

Little Dragon - Ritual Union by twelvemajorchords

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