Little Dragon - Ritual Union

Make no mistake, this is a record that sounds like nothing else out there in 2011.


The name Little Dragon has been mentioned again and again over the past two years as the band have been name-dropped by all sorts of hip musical characters; Dave Sitek, Big Boi and the Roots’ Questlove are all confirmed fans and Damon Albarn was so enthralled with the group that he collaborated with singer Yukimi Nagano on ’To Binge’, the standout track from last year’s ‘Plastic Beach’ album. Little Dragon’s rise has been slow but steady and now with the release of their third album, ‘Ritual Union’, they appear to be on the cusp of a real mainstream breakthrough.

It’s easy to see why the Swedish quartet have garnered so many plaudits. The Little Dragon sound is contemporary electronic soul influenced pop; on ‘Ritual Union’ they have struck the perfect balance between cerebral sounds and passionate vocals to startlingly good effect, creating a record that is genuinely progressive and inventive.

The opening title track sets out the album’s stall straight away as a bouncy electro backbeat ushers in a supremely soulful vocal from Nagano, showing off her skill as she changes her voice at will from beautiful falsetto in the chorus to a menacing husky rumble in the verse. Although it is her vocal that dominates, it is the band that provide the subtle yet inventive and restless rhythms and grooves that allow Nagano to flourish. The sound is on the most part stark, based on kinetic slow burning grooves. You never quite know in what direction the music is going to turn, this is most apparent on ‘Nighlight’ which is the most club influenced track on the album - remixers take note, this track will sound fantastic in clubs up and down the country.

‘Ritual Union’ is a very slick, stylish record but at no point does it ever veer into coffee table blandness. There is a real edge to the music here apparent in the harsh electro beats that underpin ‘Precious’ and the lo-fi murky shuffle of album highlight ‘When I Go Out’, where the music takes on a strange eerie, other worldly quality sampling it seems a range of jungle creatures, genuinely exciting stuff. There are also comparisons to be made with other clever, soulful electronic dance groups like Massive Attack and Portishead, but make no mistake this is a record that sounds like nothing else out there in 2011.

At its heart, ‘Ritual Union’ is a pop record and a very good one at that; it’s one that should cement Little Dragon’s place in the public consciousness as more than just a band for celebrities to namedrop, but as a forward thinking and exciting pop group in their own right.