Review: Little Dragon at the Liquid Rooms by Is This Music

Little Dragon sure do know how to get a capacity gig moving. From the balcony to the bar to the faithful fanatics at the front, feet were shuffling and the crowd were grooving along to the electro pop sounds blasting from this hotly-tipped Swedish outfit.

I came to have a nosey at what all the noise was about as currently they appear to have some amount of hype about them. After being together for ten years, this is only their third album. I was aware they had been involved with Gorillaz, collaborating with TV on the Radio, Raphael Saadiq and are favoured by the P Diddy. Not a bad CV already. I really loved the melodic slow R&B number they did with DJ Shadow, ‘Scale It Back’, last year, so to see them at the Liquid Rooms was an opportunity not to be missed.

Rhythmic, metromic sounds suited this venue and its audience very well with Yukimi Nagano’s serene light voice being heard perfectly over the moody synths and snare hits. Like a magical pixie she was never far from a cowbell and is a lady who enjoys a fair amount of percussion. She is one cool kid. She had the kind of outfit on that if you tried to replicate it you would look like you had run blind backwards through H&M. However unlike us mere mortals Nagano looks amazing and sounds it too.

Her voice is smoky, distinctive but powerful a beautiful accompaniment to the very tight drums, electropop beats and loops. The tunes follow into each other many without introduction, but from the off the crowd are getting into their dancing shoes. The band, apart from the red beared keyboardist, all came out to rave away centre stage too. If the crowd has half as good a time as the band they would have gone home delighted with themselves.

They covered their recent album Ritual Union and gave a very good account of the 14 songs in their set with extended versions of many. ‘Little Man’ and ‘Ritual Union’ were stand-out songs for me. At five songs in we were asked to film ‘Shuffle the Dream’ and upload this to their website to contribute to their next video. The crowd looked like they were sponsored by Apple.

Little Dragon’s energy on stage makes for a rave /clubbing- like experience and I had to check it was Tuesday night rather than a Friday.
The funkier Princesque Precious ended the set and their obligatory encore of ‘Fright Night’, ‘Little Man’ and ‘Twice’ were all lapped up by the clubby cool cats surrounding me. Nagano said she had a Spinal Tap moment as she had said it was good to be back and then realised she announced it was their first time in Edinburgh. She was forgiven.

You can fall into their music, have a listen and then see them live. To quote my faithful gig going buddy VM: “I went liking them and have left loving them”. Yep, Little Dragon give you no choice but to dance. Catch them where you can… hopefully at some festivals later in the summer. Source.

Leeds Uncut review Little Dragon’s Leeds show

Sweden’s Little Dragon returned to Leeds to play to a packed out Stylus at Leeds University. The last time the band were here they’d just released ‘Machine Dreams’, an album that signalled a transition to a more upbeat version of their soul infused electronica that first gained recognition after the release of their self titled debut in 2007. Indeed, anyone who’d heard first single ‘Twice’ knew that here was a uniquely fresh and exciting prospect, a fusion of jazzy synth riffs with a strong nod to dance music that has found fans across a range of musical circles. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific or defining genre, but the band has a unique signature sound that’s simultaneously uncluttered and spacious.

With the release of third album ‘Ritual Union’ last year their popularity has spiralled, yet it’s always been vocalist Yukimi Nagano who really makes the band so enticing. Appearing on the gorgeous ‘Scale it back’ from DJ Shadow’s latest LP, as well as supplying the vocals for Sbtrkt’s amazing post-dubstep hit ‘Wildfire’, she’d also previously worked with Gorillaz on ‘Plastic Beach’- the duet ‘Empire Ants’ with Damon Albarn providing a highlight of the album. Top this off with the massively overlooked ‘If you return’ from Dave Sitek’s (of TV on the radio fame) star studded side project under the moniker Maximum balloon, and it’s clear to see why she’s helped her own band fill venues like Sheppard’s Bush Empire on this tour. The vocals are compelling, emotive and idiosyncratic; a Little Dragon tune is instantly recognisable and more often than not remarkably memorable, a quality that so many bands and producers can lack amidst the multitude generic sounds out there these days.

Taking to a stage scattered with synths, drum pads and cowbells, it gets off to an exciting yet difficult start tonight. The vocals are barely audible; however this minor glitch soon gives way to what develops into a stunning live spectacle. ‘Ritual Union’ is played within the first few songs, and seems to be what the crowd needs to get going. Yukimi gives a typically lively performance, pushing her hands to the heavens as the futuristic sounds of her band mates get people moving. It’s also given an added energy and urgency by the addition of a second keyboardist who’s been absent in the past, and tonight there’s no trouble keeping the audience entertained throughout. It’s clear that they’ve found their confidence; no time is wasted in proving they’re pumped up- every band member seems to have something to add to the mix, be it the sudden blast of a skewed keyboard riff or a frantic percussive solo.

Highlights include the disco tinged beats of ‘New Step’ and ‘Looking Glass’, as well as the standout couplet of tracks from the new album, the insanely catchy and danceable ‘Shuffle a Dream’ followed by the eerie yet uplifting ‘Please Turn’. Current single ‘Crystalfilm’ is elevated way beyond the studio recording, and Little Dragon’s sound is at its most expansive as the set moves on- we’re treated to an all out techno jam that generates a sound more befitting a DJ at 3am on a Sunday morning. As a venue Stylus undoubtedly helps the gig out here- the strobe lights and clubby atmosphere brilliantly enhances the experience.

The best is saved for last, however. The set is closed with a heartbreaking rendition of ‘Twice’ that leaves the crowd silenced. It’s the best live song I’ve witnessed in a long time, a fitting end to amazing night, and the only regret by the end was that it couldn’t go on for longer. It was a welcome return to Leeds for Little Dragon, and no doubt they’ll be back in the future with even bigger and better things. Source.

Gigwise review Little Dragon’s London show

Swedish electronic kids Little Dragon have been around for nearly 16 years, but their profile has only exploded recently with the release of their third studio album ‘Ritual Union’. Their sound skilfully combines the dreamy soulful voice of lead singer Yukimi Nagano punctuated by the futuristic trance-like rhythms of the rest of the band.

‘Ritual Union’ the title song from their latest album was greeted enthusiastically as Yukimi, dressed in bright yellow tights, white nightshirt and a transparent sun visor, jumped around the smoky strobe-lit stage.

An eerie and low-tempo Brush The Heat was well received, building up with infectious cowbells and several bandmembers drumming – Yukimi took to her electronic drum setup, which resembled a giant kids toy with oversized, primary coloured squares.

Sticking predominantly to tracks from ‘Ritual Union’, the band followed up with ‘Shuffle A Dream’ and a haunting ‘Crystalfilm’, all the time a hyperactive Yukimi roamed around the stage with her teardrop-shaped tambourine.

As the heavy rumbling bass kicked into ‘Preciou’s, a fierce red light flooded the stage, giving the track a distinctively dark edge. The song morphed into a lengthy improvisation that stretched on almost symphonically, and Yukimi’s soaring vocals crescendoed to a towering finale, which was the perfect song to end their set.

After that performance it’s easy to see why they are steadily gaining a reputation as an impressive live act, and for the encore the band again delivered with a riotous version of Little Man and an equally energetic Nightlight, finishing up the night with their standout hit Twice from their eponymous Little Dragon debut album. The song really showcased Nagano’s soulful and robust vocals, and it sounded even more sentimental with an unexpected piano interlude.

If you’re going to Lovebox, Benicassim or Bestival this summer, make sure you check out Little Dragon, you will definitely not be disappointed. Source.

Mix Mag label Little Dragon as ‘stars of the year’

In 1996 four high school kids were experimenting with music after class and listening to ‘Endtroducing’. 15 years later they were working with DJ Shadow on his comeback record. That’s just one small part of the Swedish band’s incredible 12 months.

Little Dragon’s album, ‘Ritual Union’, has been one of the year’s highlights, while singer Yukimi Nagano has quickly become one of the most recognisable and sought after singers in electronic music. Her voice – one moment soft and delicate, the next sharp and full of energy – complements SBTRKT on his ‘Wildfire’ tune, while the band have also worked with Raphael Saadiq and just come out of the Stankonia studios with Big Boi after helping the Outkast rapper craft his new album.

But don’t expect this to become a trend, as Nagano tells us over the phone from the band’s hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden. She slips out of her tranquil state for the only time during our conversation: “We don’t want to be ‘that collaboration band.’”

“We get so many questions about who we are working with, and being famous because of them, and we are like, ‘look, we make music ourselves and haven’t had help from anyone on our album.’” she adds.

Indeed, their own music expertly fuses electronic Scandinavian pop, foot tapping rhythm and hypnotic melody, which explains why they’ve become such hot property to work with and remix. Tensnake and Maya Jane Coles through to Odd Future’s Syd tha Kyd and Floating Points have all given their own twist on Little Dragon in 2011.

The band’s first EP, ‘Test/4ever’, in 2006 only came about when friends requested they press some of their tracks. “If we didn’t have a label and were working normal jobs, we’d still just be drawn to make music together. We were blown away by the thought that anyone wanted to put out our music, and suddenly realised we needed a name,” says Nagano. Little Dragon, she admits, is because of her fiery temper in the studio.

The reality is that with Peacefrog they do have a UK indie label backing them and they’ve helped themselves in the past year by producing a glorious record, performing barnstorming sets everywhere from Glastonbury to Ibiza and have music royalty knocking down their door to capture their Scandinavian sparkle. Source.

Little Dragon caught live at the Button Factory by Ragged Words

Just over a year ago, Little Dragon performed at Dublin’s Crawdaddy to an audience of not much more than a dozen punters. This evening, by contrast, having initially been booked to play that same small venue once again, the Swedes find themselves in a Button Factory that’s as packed as your reviewer can ever remember seeing it. The band will presumably be sending a grateful Christmas card or two Damon Albarn’s way – since their appearance on the last Gorillaz album (their two co-written contributions ranking among Plastic Beach’s highlights) their profile has soared to occasionally silly levels.

But it hasn’t simply been a case of hitching a ride on the Blur man’s coattails: previous albums Little Dragon (2007) and Machine Dreams (’09) – along with a history of wisely-chosen collaborations (frontwoman Yukimi Nagano, in particular, has shared studio time with José González and SBTRKT, among others, in recent times) – haven’t done them any harm at all in the popularity stakes; nor, judging by that NME Cool List mention as well as the number of lovesick, Movember-‘tachioed indie boys in tonight’s crowd, have Nagano’s striking Scandinasian looks and playful eccentricity.

Ritual Union, the Gothenburg natives’ third LP from earlier this year, however, represents an undeniable turning-point for the band – the record that’s finally brought them close to the precipice marked mainstream popularity. A continuation of LD’s shift away from the eclectic and often jazzy arrangements seen on that self-titled debut towards a more cohesive and (dare we say it) accessible sound, the album utilises rhythm as its central force around which the band weave their quirky synthesis of soul, R&B, pop and jazz – to frequently stunning effect.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of this evening’s set is drawn from that breakthrough long-player, and the band’s treatment of their material bears all the hallmarks of many years’ experience. Much like Caribou, this is a band who’ve spent the last half a decade refining the tricky art of crafting layered headphones music that also caters for the needs of adrenalised festival crowds. While on record, therefore, much of Ritual Union possesses a sparse, dreamy feel that may require several listens to get to grips with, its live incarnation sees the songs’ rhythmic elements being foregrounded to the point that several of tonight’s cuts feel like extended disco edits of the original album versions.

Each track, from the LP’s eponymous lead single to other highlights like ‘Brush The Heat’ and ‘Shuffle A Dream’, tonight rides a consistently rock-solid metronomic groove, with each of the five band members – including recently-returned touring keyboardist Arild Werling – deftly adding layers of beats and textures, both digital and analogue, to the mix. And speaking of keyboards, the extravagantly-bearded Håkan Wirenstrand stands impassively over his bank of synths like a missing (Viking) member of Kraftwerk, while Nagano confidently claims centre stage, often taking advantage of the instrumental breaks to bash a drum pad or cowbell. Again, the constant equation seems to be that more rhythm equals more good times, and it’s one that proves hard to refute as the gig wears on.

A dramatic finale sees the band segue from the heady, polyrhythmic climax of Machine Dreams cut ‘Blinking Pigs’ into ‘Twice’, the gorgeously soulful and otherworldy opener from their self-titled debut. It’s an ending that also serves as a reminder – as if one were needed after a show this good – of the depth of talent at this band’s disposal. The only real surprise is how long it’s taken the record-buying public to discover Little Dragon’s roar. Source. Photographs.

Gardens & Villa confirm their ‘Top 10 of 2011′ to FILTER Magazine

One of our favorites from this year, a band that just seemed to keep coming up all year ’round, was Santa Barbara quartet Gardens & Villa. Their self-titled debut was an early delight, and their good vibes seemed to strike a chord with everyone, everywhere. The band emarked on a huge tour in 2011, hitting Los Angeles no less than two times, where we got to see the band for the first time live at Origami Vinyl (see the below video captured via OnTheRecord.tv), as well as an international tour that wrapped up at the end of November. We’re looking forward to 2012, but won’t blame the band a bit if they take a bit of R&R. Below, check out the band’s “most listened to” albums of 2011. Source.

1. John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Sensors of Ourselves (RIBBON)
Dreamy… Sentimentally charged… Some songs remind me of pizza and video games in the early ’90s. He has an incredible pop sensibility and it really comes out on this record. Definitely my favorite of the year.

2. Junip, Fields (MUTE/CITY SLANG, 2010)
José González can do no wrong. Junip is psychedelic and absurdly groovy. From start to finish, it feels live and timeless.

3. Little Dragon, Ritual Union (PEACEFROG)
Great beats, insane synth work. [Yukimi Nagano’s] voice shakes my ribs. Dancey and/or contemplative, depending on your mood.

4. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (SUB POP)
Magical.

5. Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage (SOUTHERN LORD)
Take you into a world of epic tragedy, fog and dreams of fjords… Pure black metal from Seattle.

6. Future Islands, On the Water (THRILL JOCKEY)
[Samuel T. Herring] sings about love as if no one has ever sung about it before. Amazing vocal melodies and delivery…honest. Immaculate arrangements. It’s a perfect record.

7. Youth Lagoon, Year of Hibernation (FAT POSSUM)
Innocent and beautiful. Double rainbow.

8. Richard Swift, Walt Wolfman (SECRETLY CANADIAN)
Soulful to the beyond. Sounds like it was recorded in 1975. Swift is a god.

9. The War on Drugs, Slave Ambient (SECRETLY CANADIAN)
We listened to this record at least 20 times whilst on tour over the summer. Amazing to drive across America with and it never gets old!

10. Clams Casino, Clams Casino (SELF-RELEASED)
Innovative and vibey. Fits wih most relevant gatherings, just don’t listen to it late while you’re driving…it may entrance you to sleep. Source.

Pitchfork rank SBTRKT & Little Dragon’s collaboration as the 89th best song of 2011

If you wake up one day to find that your genre of choice has been suddenly co-opted by bandwagoneering rock-bros, there are a couple of good ways to shrug it off: Network with people who share your ability to imbue music with shapeshifting versatility, take it to somewhere it hasn’t been, and slap the prefix post- onto it. SBTRKT does just that, and “Wildfire”, the first single from his self-titled debut, is a savvy lure. Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano drops a vocal in full diva mode, wrapping her sultry voice around words that sound romantic until you catch the underlying threats. And what she’s given to work with is a track that winds its way through a couple different satellites of landmark R&B, a slinky slow-jam 80s drum machine holding the door open for fat synths that draw a path of lineage from dubstep all the way back to “Pony”. Source.

The Guardian review Little Dragon’s Ruby Lounge show in Manchester

From the back of a busy Ruby Lounge, you can just about see the iconic sight of a tambourine being held aloft on stage. Only when the songs subside, and it’s possible to peer through gaps in the crowd, is there much sight of elfin vocalist Yukimi Nagano. This Swedish band have not called themselves Little Dragon for no reason.

And yet, they emit the noise of a much larger, fire-breathing electronic beast; a collision between nervy electro-pop and walloping dance grooves, topped off with clattering percussion. When lasers fire over the crowd, the visual limitations are forgotten in favour of an invitation to lose yourself in music. It’s part-gig, part-club experience. Although Nagano has collaborated with DJ Shadow and Gorillaz, the 80-minute set primarily airs this year’s acclaimed third album, Ritual Union. The title track is the closest they come to pure pop, Swedish-Japanese-American Nagano’s nimble vocals dancing Björk-like around a minimal but memorable melody. The dreamy Brush the Heat (“I’m giving in to the rhythm of my feet”) is given an eerier, stark electronic treatment reminiscent of Daniel Miller’s synth pioneers the Normal. Elsewhere, songs are extended into percussive, cowbell-beating jams, given expectant pauses and then restarted, and sped up into such dizzying climaxes you fear they will spin out from the building. However, on recordings there is a sense that they haven’t decided whether to aim primarily for the dancefloor or the singles charts, and they seem to pull back from the precipice on stage, too. When Nagano says, “We’re going to take it down”, she ushers in a lull, where even the sub-bass competes with chatter. Thankfully, it doesn’t last; the spare, sensual pop groove of Precious restores the excitement, and up goes the tambourine again. Source.