Album Review: Little Dragon – ‘Ritual Union’


This Swedish pop crew don’t seem to know what manner of beast they are. Neither do we, but we like it

In her life, [a]Geri Halliwell[/a] has given Western culture about three-and-a-half decent [a]Spice Girls[/a] songs and the invention of the word ‘schizophonic’. The latter feat has upped her usefulness to the human race fifty-fold as we now have a word that can accurately describe Swedish collective [a]Little Dragon[/a]’s third record. It’s a conflicted, confusing album that’s as infuriating as it is intermittently enchanting. Kitchen sinks in pop are no bad thing – and while this lot have spent the best part of seven years never quite nailing down their charm to anything of discernible or definite shape, [b]‘Ritual Union’[/b] could be what elevates them above the status of college art project.

Of course, we’ve heard this kind of lo-fi/electronica/funk/pop/hybrid/thing plenty before from your likes of [a]Broadcast[/a], [a]Stereolab[/a] and even the noughties ambience of [b]Lemonjelly[/b]. But the charm here lies in the tangents that [b]‘Ritual Union’[/b] veers off on which usually – usually – succeed. [b]‘Shuffle A Dream’[/b] beautifully channels metallic ’80s pop, the title track slopes into taut [a]Prince[/a]-funk, [b]‘Precious’[/b] has a whiff of drum’n’bass to it, and [b]‘Little Man’[/b] even surfs tantalisingly close to being a conventional song.

Meanwhile, frontlady Yukimi Nagano’s Japanese heritage twists proceedings further with a cute J-Pop edge. It doesn’t always work. [b]‘When I Go Out’[/b] sounds like it’s trying to recreate [a]Björk[/a]’s [b]‘Hyperballad’[/b] through the medium of expressive street theatre – which is, quite frankly, of no use to man or beast.

There’s a sense that, as the literary genre of steampunk imagines a future where the microchip was never invented, one of the ridiculous flights of fancy that [b]‘Ritual Union’[/b] so teasingly invites is a version of [a]Major Lazer[/a] where synthesizer technology had never progressed past the Bontempi. Still though, on this lovely little patchwork pop record, there’s enough going on to make you actually quite scared of what they’d come up with if they had a budget.

Dan Martin


Director: Little Dragon
Record label: Peachfrog
Release date: 26 Jul, 2011