Little Dragon | Ritual Union

Peacefrog Records (2011)
By RYAN REED  |  July 12, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

Little Dragon's new release

First, let's clear out all the press-release junk: Swedish quartet, Japanese vocalist, toured/recorded with Gorillaz electro-pop whiz Damon Albarn, tunes featured in Grey's Anatomy. There — I feel better already. On Ritual Union, the third full-length from these mechanical soul weirdos, Little Dragon have managed to get way catchier and also a great deal stranger. The opening, title track is a well-rounded introduction — the first thing you'll notice is the gorgeous, '90s R&Bs vocals of Yukimi Nagano, her frilly melodies running freely over a bed of polished electronic squiggles and effects-washed synths. The last thing you'll notice is the words — partly because Nagano's voice is so pleasing that you'll hardly care what she's crooning about, partly because her lyrics ("Ritual union got me in trouble again"; "Are you suffering the blues?") don't add up to poetry. After the brilliant five-track sweep that opens Ritual Union, which peaks with the entrancing "Please Turn," Little Dragon take an unfortunate turn toward light experimentation and hard-nosed repetition, emphasizing pocket-sized click-clack rhythms and downplaying Nagano's magic spell (evident on the flat, frustrating "Summertearz"). But those aren't the moments you'll remember from Ritual Union — Nagano's hypnotic stain is a tough one to wash off.
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