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Little Dragon

Ritual Union


Jul 25, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Little Dragon has never suffered from a lack of confidence. For their last two albums the Swedish trio has felt like a representative of dangerous soul, slipping through slinky space-aged R&B, topped by singer Yukimi Nagano’s seductive whisper. Their third outing still proves the band to be the epitome of effortless cool, possessing a commendable, unwavering vision. But while previous outings made Little Dragon’s otherworldly persona appear ambitious, it now often sounds without effort. As a result Ritual Union sounds like an exercise in reaching for the low hanging fruit when the band clearly possess the ability to transcend the expected.

The burners are notable. The album opens strong with a double punch of “Ritual Union” and “Little Man,” but none of the remaining nine tracks manage to match these two tracks’ frenetic, something-to-prove energy. “Brush the Heat” boils, bubbling to a chanted chorus, and “Shuffle the Dream” crackles mightily—but these ultimately become inflexible series of catchy grooves, established early and then unflinchingly maintained for the duration of the track.

For every hint of ambition there’s an equally troubling undertone of formula, making much of Ritual Union sound not unlike a seduction in sweatpants. Everyone yearns for a night in every once in awhile, but such tracks as “Crystalfilm” and “Precious” squander Little Dragon’s natural tension, playing like the world’s longest, disco-nap—the kind that ends long after the party has come and gone. It certainly isn’t due to an inability to take it down a notch—the band already proved they can do mellow with their ethereal contributions to 2010 Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach.

Ultimately the effort is mighty, and Little Dragon is still clearly at the top of the electro R&B pile. But Ritual Union is a mixed bag, its feet uncomfortably divided between the dance floor and the couch. (

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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