Which came first, the beat or the vocals? On the 2011 release from Sweden’s Little Dragon, the two are so intimately interwoven, it’s a moot question. They were born simultaneously; sheered and cultivated for the excellent album that is Ritual Union. This latest is the quartet’s 3rd, and the boldest declarative statement they’ve made to the world yet. If before, on their 2007 self-titled debut record, or on 2009’s sublime Machine Dreams, they were seeking new lands to explore and conquer, the new collection features roots and beams settled into their newfound home territory, where they’re inviting you to come and hear their aural emporium of new, never before witnessed sounds.
It’s hard not be biased once you’ve heard Little Dragon. The music Yukimi Nagano (vocals, percussion) and her close high-school friends Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass), and Rashik Aryal (keyboards) make has jaw-dropping combinations of break beats and choral gymnastics. Ritual Union exemplifies their dynamic traits like never before, wrapping words around beats so bulbous and spherical that your ears oh-so-nearly feel like they could actually reach out and run their ear-hands over the smooth surfaces. The album kicks things off with the title-track, “Ritual Union”, which rumbles and pounds stakes made of sound waves into the path ahead of you. The song is so constructive in nature that by the two minute mark you have a fully lit super-highway to lead you straight into quite possibly the biggest treat on the record; “Little Man”. One run through this track, and you’ll understand all the grand descriptions used above. They’ll all make sense in-stant-ly.
“Brush the Heat” is a full dive into a high-pitched dissonance, and it might be the only weak point on the album, dwelling too long in repetition of something that grates on the inner folds of your mind. But knowing the Swedish group, the ability for the song to unsettle you in such a manner is probably exactly what they had in their mind.
Leaping out of your Sulci, the sequence of songs that follow range from the sorcery empowered (“Shuffle A Dream”) to the reality warping (“Precious”) to the psychedelic sea drifting (“When I Go Out”). And of course “Nightlight”, their first single which they released back in April, is still a mastercraft of epitomizing dream-scape.
There’s really nothing like Little Dragon in all the musical land, and Ritual Union is the very best they have had to offer. It’s well worth your time and all the pre-conceived notions you’ll lose when you hear it.
(Ritual Union is available now from Peace Frog Records)