Rolling Stone “Editor’s Picks” highlights Little Dragon’s Ritual Union LP

“2011 is shaping up as the year of abstract R&B: the Weeknd, James Blake and now the latest by this three-man, one-woman Swedish crew, who count Big Boi, Damon Albarn, Raphael Saadiq and TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek among their fans and collaborators. Their third set hits a sweet spot between the futuristic soul of their debut and the synth pop of 2009’s Machine Dreams. “Brush the Heat” sounds like Sheila E. hittin’ the bong amid electronic dog whistles. “Precious” begins as dubstep pop, then morphs into an off-kilter house jam. On “Shuffle a Dream,” singer Yukimi Nagano seems to empathize with a superstar who — if she keeps this up — just might be her before long.”

SPIN’s must-hear artists at Outside Lands festival

Band: Little Dragon

Hometown: Gothenburg, Sweden

Why They Matter: After lending their talents to make other people’s music even better (two tracks on Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach, a song with retro-soul crooner Raphael Saadiq, a recent, hot-shit collabo with upstart electronic act SBTRKT, to name a few), this alt-R&B quartet, inspired by great ’90s hip-hop and led by the silken voiced Yukimi Nagano, is finally poised for its own breakout, with the just-released Ritual Union **.

You Should Know: Little Dragon opened for Q-Tip in Central Park two summers ago, and Diddy popped onstage with the former Tribe Called Quest MC to rock “Vivrant Thing.” But later, the hip-hop mogul dropped in to say how much he loved Little Dragon, too. Still, they remain humble: “It’s amazing to know that a lot of creative people believe in what we do,” the modest Nagano told SPIN.

Listen: Little Dragon, “Ritual Union”

Source: Here

NPR call Little Dragon and “NighLight” “dance-pop: with a spark”

Compared to the output of other European nations, Swedish pop actually makes it across the Atlantic in significant numbers. When it does reach the U.S., it often doesn’t take long before it’s embraced by listeners of all kinds. The country’s latest contribution is Little Dragon, a band whose newly acquired buzz was built in increments, one collaboration at a time.

There was the guest spot on Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach and a yet-to-be-heard studio session with Big Boi, among others, so it’s no surprise that the group sounds so confident in “NightLight,” the first single from the upcoming Ritual Union.

Little Dragon makes pop music for folks who think they hate pop music, and one important trick when attempting such a feat is to make the melody sound more complex than it is. The hook in “NightLight” is carved out of a couple of stiff keyboard chords, which don’t quite fit together but still fall neatly into place on the 4/4 beat. They might be the unexpected visitors Yukimi Nagano sings about, the ones who are “turning and twisting to form a line.” Her lithe vocals sync up with the song’s electric undercurrent, providing the spark in a dance number which might otherwise seem suited for a dilapidated disco hall. – Source

The FADER speak to Little Dragon

Describing a recent show that had the kids in Northfield, Minnesota literally hanging from the rafters, singer Yukimi Nagano of Swedish band Little Dragon talks a lot about the idea of music as a blissful unifier. “I think we feel sometimes when have these really special moments that are almost euphoric, that going to a show can seem like a kind of ritual,” she says. Their newest record, Ritual Union, sounds like the membership card to that cult of good times, a portable celebration that allows fans to access the ecstasy from the comfort of their homes. “Hopefully,” she says, “people will play the record and by the time it’s over, they will wonder if this is reality or a dream and just say, ‘Who cares, let’s listen to it again.’”

When asked to explain their sound to someone who has never heard them, however, the band, comprised of high school friends Nagano, Erik Bodin, Fredrik Wallin and Håkan Wirenstrand, takes pause to consider. The often used label synth pop doesn’t do the Gothenburg-based group’s third full-length effort the justice it so readily deserves. Of particular note are Nagano’s unexpectedly soulful vocals, which burst with a sultriness that quickly dismisses any image of dorks in lab coats behind a bay of hulking Moogs. On track after track, gleefully shuffling drum lines and spare production underscore a kind of schoolyard simplicity, as if the notes are playing an infectious game of pattycake with your eardrums. “We just love making music and exploring,” explains Wallin. “We always try to stay open and have fun.”

Having fun, for Little Dragon, requires an ethos of trial and error and experimentation. The band feels their way through instead of having preset ideas about how a song should sound. Ritual Union is a groove hit by four musicians playing until they get it right. Back home, a day’s work often sees the band in the studio from 10AM to 10PM, a schedule that makes them so prolific that cutting an album becomes primarily a process of elimination. “We write a lot of music and some of it’s good, you’re loving it at the time, but the next day maybe you’re not feeling it anymore,” says Nagano. “The guys have their set up, and it’s pretty playful. And sometimes we happen to capture a real moment. The songs that we keep are the ones that feel good for a long time.”

Spontaneity like this can only come from the easy camaraderie of life-long friendship, and years of knowing and celebrating each other’s strengths as much as their differences. “Everyone contrasts with each other but still fits together,” says Nagano. “That way, when things go good you share that joy and when things are bad you share that as well. And in the end it’s just rewarding.” It’s a thrill that comes from a deep union, but one that remains open to everyone who listens. – The FADER

Detroit Electronic Music Festival: Little Dragon’s Fire

Swedish electronic wizards, Little Dragon, delivered an energetic gig at Detroit’s electronic music festival, Movement. Ryan Patrick Hooper talked to singer Yukimi Nagano and the band.

While American kids were hanging up posters of guitar gods, the members of Little Dragon were adorning their walls with pictures of Kraftwerk and Zero 7 — proven producers rather than string plucking prodigies.

And while dark electro-gaze wizards The Knife were sharpened and refined in their hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, that’s hardly the norm. Most kids venture into the world of heavy metal and folk. So, what put Casio keyboards in the hands of Little Dragon rather than Gibson guitars?

“We’re a little bit more into rhythm,” explains Håkan Wirenstrand, the man responsible for the wall of keyboards and synths found throughout Little Dragon’s catalogue. “There is something about the synth that takes you to another dimension.”

It sounds a little sci-fi, sure, but during the four-piece’s performance on the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Movement 2011, Little Dragon proved why they stand tall in a dense field of electro-indie acts — they don’t rely on looping. Indeed, they are about as live as you’re going to get in their sound field of expertise.

“We are almost more against looping than guitars,” jokes percussionist, Erik Bodin.

The blend of live instrumentation and electronic gadgetry is seamless. Instead of wondering where that angular bass line is coming from, you can watch it being performed in front of you by an actual bass guitar.

Lead singer Yukimi Nagano twirls around the stage, slamming a drumstick onto a synth pad or flailing a tambourine around in the air. Bodin maneuvers smoothly between live snare hits and drum pad. It’s truly a tutorial in “how to be an electronic band 101.” And at Movement 2011, it was clear their opening stint for Gorillaz has paid off in the form of stage presence and forceful delivery.

No wonder the crowd was pumped to hear tracks off their upcoming album, Ritual Union (due July 26 via Peacefrog Records), like the self-titled opener and single “NightLight.” Bodin explained shortly after their set that the sound on their upcoming record is about sorting out the multitude of ways a band can experiment with their sound and picking what suits them best.

“After doing two records, we are more confident in knowing who we are and what we want to accomplish,” Bodin says. “Maybe we are drawn a little bit more to the pop melodies, but it’s the same ol’ homemade electronic stew with psychedelic sounds.” – Red Bull

Band to watch: Little Dragon charms with dreamy electro-pop

Who: Swedish electro-soul foursome led by Japanese-Swedish singer Yukimi Nagano, whose effortlessly slinky R&B inflections make Little Dragon’s difficult-to-categorize sound instantly recognizable. On the Gotheburg band’s upcoming third album, Ritual Union (out July 26th), they home in on the sweet spot they’ve been circling since their 2007 debut – richly textured and highly vibe-y electronic music that could soundtrack both the dance party (“Night Light,” “Little Man”) and the chill-out room (“Crystalfilm,” “When I Go Out”). “It has always been kind of hard for us, because people try to put us in different boxes,” says drummer Erik Bodin. “Of course, we are a pop band, but we’ve also always been into beat music and things with a psychedelic dreamy element. We’ve just never really found a good name for it.”

Old School: Though keyboard player Håkan Wirenstrand joined a bit later, the other three have been playing together since high school, when Bodin and bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin invited a shy, 14-year-old Nagano to join their band. “They were two years older than me and I was just flattered they even asked me,” she says. “Like, ‘the cool guys in their last year asked me to sing with THEM.’ They described their sound as drum & bass, electro, experimental – every genre you could think of, in one band. Sounds terrible, right?” Adds Bodin, with a laugh: “Sounds like us.”

Nose to the Grindstone: The band played together for several years before giving the project a name; they christened themselves Little Dragon after a friend offered to put out a seven-inch single in 2006. Things haven’t slowed down since. “Twice,” one of that single’s two A-sides, popped up in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in 2008 and became the band’s early calling card. In the years since, they’ve earned fans in Gorillaz (whose 2010 LP Plastic Beach includes two songs written and performed with Little Dragon), Raphael Saadiq (who invited Nagano to sing on his new Stone Rollin’ album) and Erykah Badu (who calls the band “one of my favorites”).

Building Blocks: Since they’ve been playing together for almost half their lives, the members of Little Dragon have at this point refined a songwriting process perfectly suited to their schizophonic tendencies. Bodin, Wallin and Wirenstrand will each work on their own initial song ideas with Nagano, and then continue building the rest of the track together. “Three little duos,” Bodin calls them. “I think it’s helped us push each other to grow as songwriters – all of us,” he says. “And that can only really happen if you have been playing together a long time.” Adds Nagano: “If someone would give me 10 songs that have a mixture of beats from Hakan and Erik and Fred, I think it would be very easy for me to guess who did which thing. After the base of the idea is there and we start building on it, it gets more interesting, it gets better and feels more unified.” – Rolling Stone

Little Dragon feature on SPIN’s “24 Summer Albums That Matter Most”

Ritual Union (Peacefrog/EMI)
Release date: July 26

The Skinny: As a rule, it’s wise to pay attention to dragons of pretty much any size or nationality, but this Little Dragon from Sweden is especially significant. The group has made some noteworthy friends while bubbling up in the past few years, among them Damon Albarn from Gorillaz, Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio, and someone in the music department at Grey’s Anatomy, who liked Little Dragon enough to use their breakout song “Twice.” At the core of all that admiration is an alternately propulsive and delicate sound dictated by strains of electro and the striking vocal coo of Yukimi Nagano, none of which is likely to be dialed down on their third album Ritual Union.

Fast Fact: Frontwoman Nagano, born in Sweden to a Japanese father and an American mother, evidently has something of a temper despite her quietude otherwise — hence the nickname Little Dragon. – SPIN

Life + Times speak to Little Dragon/”The Tempered Roar”

If any other band compared its live performance to licorice – because it’s “soft and sweet” and “hard to describe” — you’d probably recoil at their pretentiousness, but Little Dragon isn’t just any band. Humble, humorous and devoid of pretense, the group is a quirky quartet of Swedes made up of bassist Håkan Wirenstrand, keyboard player Fredrick Källgren, drummer Erik Bodin and Yukimi Nagano, the half-Japanese, half-American chanteuse for whom the band is named. Their minimalist electro-soul sound has put them on the radar of eclectic music fans the world over and their live show is definitely something better experienced than described — the licorice reference is just a native Swedish speaker’s awkward way of saying “you just have to be there.” Life + Times sat down with its members to talk about their creative process, their new album and why they don’t use guitars.

Life + Times: Explain the Little Dragon experience to people.
Fredrick Källgren: It’s beyond describing… You have to go to it. It’s like licorice; it’s hard to describe how it tastes [exactly]. It’s soft and it’s sweet but you really have to try it [for yourself].

L+T: What is it like to be embraced by the music community around the world—to get all these props, accolades and love?
Yukimi Nagano: I mean it’s pretty strange and also really amazing and fun. And it boosts your confidence and I think you just feel blessed to be doing what you love. Like our jammin’ out in our studio is being received by people in all kinds of different places and being appreciated.
Håkan Wirenstrand: And being appreciated by people we have been listening to—
YN: Yeah! It’s surreal I guess.

L+T: Name some of these people who you’ve been listening to who have been like, “Yeah, I’m a fan of Little Dragon.”
Erik Bodin: For example Raphael Saadiq, we always loved him and all the things he’s done, so that was pretty huge.
YN: Wendy and Lisa (of The Revolution). They were asked in a YouTube video, “Who would you like to collaborate with?” and they said, “Little Dragon!” and we were just in our studio just like [gasps!]. Also, De La Soul, DJ Shadow, Andre 3000 and Big Boi.

L+T: That’s cool. I come from a hip-hop background myself and that led me to be curious about all different types of music I learned about Little Dragon from other people who were hip-hop heads who liked ATCQ, J Dilla and stuff like that. Why do you guys think that community embraced Little Dragon so much?
YN: I think that says a lot about hip-hop music and just about being curious. That genre of music is about using samples and being into all different styles of music that you transform into the hip-hop sound. I think that’s definitely part of [Little Dragon’s appeal]. You’re open and you want to hear new stuff. We’re inspired by like J Dilla and all that. For us, it’s like you love that music but you’re not from that culture and as much as we would try to make that sound, we just can’t make it. So we have to make our own and take the inspiration from there and all the different things that we love and mix it up.

L+T: A lot of bands get known for a sound they have at a certain time but many people don’t realize that the band went through a number of evolutions before they got to where they are. You guys have all known each other since high school, so what types of music did you guys used to play when you were in your experimental phase?
YN: [laughs] I don’t know if you want to know this!
EB: We had a freeform band for a couple of weeks. We were talking about forming a band in school – I don’t know what it’s called in English [says something in Swedish]. You know like dint-dinna-diiiiiiiiiin [imitates trumpet sounds]. Just to get into that whole thing and just jam on different kinds of salutes.

L+T: Like a marching band?
YN: You know the short themes they have for like movie companies? Almost like a sound logo.

L+T: Like 21st Century Fox
EB: Exactly, like very bombastic but very short—like 20 seconds.

L+T: So like a CD with 100 tracks that are 20 seconds each?
EB: I don’t know, we didn’t go that far with it. The other guys in the band didn’t even know about it. [laughs]

L+T: What about vocally? How did you arrive at your style of singing right now?
YN: In the beginning I was really trying to sing like an American R&B singer.

L+T: Like ‘90′s R&B?
YN: Yeah!

L+T: I’m dying to hear your Mary J. Blige demos.
YN: I really tried and I loved Faith Evans and Lauryn Hill but I just couldn’t do it because it wasn’t me. So I think after you test it out then do some more songs that are more free, you’re like, “Fuck it, let’s just do whatever.” Maybe you can’t do that ad lib like so and so but whatever. Who cares? It’s about making a song and trying to say something.

L+T: What is your creative process like?
EB: Sometimes it starts with drums. I usually just record drums all the time with different beats that I play. Sometimes Yukimi comes up with something already that goes on top of the drum beat itself and we find something. Then we’ll be nodding our heads for a couple hours and then we’ll play it for the others and they’ll say “Eh, that’s embarrassing” or “Wow, that’s so good”
YN: Then just let it be.
EB: Sometimes you just let it be for a couple of days or whatever. It can stay for a long time and you can get to it later on.
YN: Everyone writes and produces a bunch of stuff and we have a lot of material and some of it we sort of forget about— actually a lot of it—but the ones we feel have something, we continue on until we finish and the ones we finish that we love end up coming out. We have a lot of stuff even beyond the third album [that] we want to play as well.

L+T: With this third album is the sound going to be much of a departure from what you’ve done before?
FW: It definitely has a connection [to the older stuff] but it’s another step. I’d say it’s more soulful and maybe a bit “tribal” if you can say that. But you will definitely recognize the Little Dragon sound.

L+T: I want to ask you about lyrics and your choice of language. Why do you sing in English?
YN: I’ve gotten that question a lot. Honestly, it’s the most normal thing for me. Writing in Swedish would be really hard, not just because my mom’s American, but most Swedish artists would say that it’s just kind of in the Swedish culture to write in English. There are a lot of artists who’re famous who write in Swedish, but generally most artists and bands will write in English. It’s just kinda what you do; I think we’re so influenced by Western music culture that it’s natural.

L+T: As far as actually writing lyrics some people start with a piece of poetry and set it to music; some people just recite melodic gibberish to an instrumental before fleshing out the song lyrics. What’s your process like?
YN: I think it’s the same thing as when the guys write the music— sometimes it’s drums sometimes it’s a melody and it’s the same thing with lyrics. Especially when I record when it’s only drums and vocals–sometimes it’s random or just some thought that I had or it can even be pieces of sentences that have something that I want to take further. There’s not just one method.
EB: The ideas will come quickly.
FK: And you just have to be ready to record!
EB: Yeah, otherwise Yukimi will be angry at you! [laughs]
YN: I think the music that they make gives me a direct feeling. The sounds have so much of an instant feel to it that usually I’m like, “I really like this. I’m gonna try to write something to it.” And sometimes I struggle and listen to it over and over and try to write something or sometimes I listen once I’m like, “I know I’m gonna find something for this.” It’s both, up and down. Sometimes when you haven’t been in the studio for weeks, you know it’s gonna be a bit tougher, like the first two weeks, and then you’re going to find the flow of it and that’s the high of being creative: when you can just let go and not be so analytical. You just let it flow.

L+T: I know you’ve probably heard this question before but I’m going to ask you for the billionth time: Why no guitars in your music?
FK: Well, for the first part, no one in the band is really a guitar player. Like we can play a few chords, but the thing is our studio is next to the [train] tram crossing so as soon as you plug in a guitar, and sometimes with the electric bass, you get this horrible hum and buzz and you can’t get away from it.

L+T: You have a very diverse fan base, how do you think most people discover Little Dragon?
YN: I say word of mouth because we’ve been here quite a lot and played places across the country. Even when we played at the Milestone in Charlotte–it’s the shittiest punk club ever like you don’t even want to touch anything–it was like a third or almost half-full. And then we played that place again and it was all full and basically, [people] had come out to dance and have a good time with us. It’s grown very gradually. We haven’t gotten that much help!

L+T: That’s truly organic. What role do you think the Internet’s played in this?
EB: Huge! With Myspace and Facebook.

L+T: You guys are still on Myspace?
EB: Yeah!

L+T: So you actually go on like on “a normal day?”
YN: No…
EB: It used to be that I was there all the time, but then they changed the lay out and I didn’t understand anything. I got tired.

L+T: Any final thoughts for the people?
YN: Third album coming out this year…

L+T: Buy that shit!
Little Dragon: [Laughs] – Life And Times

The Rise of Little Dragon, by SPIN.com

Here’s an interesting article by SPIN.com related to the rise of popularity for Little Dragon. Some nifty photographs added, too. Not much in the way of new information, but the line “English label Peacefrog promptly inked Nagano and the guys to a three-album deal, of which Ritual Union, due in June, is the last and best effort” is undoubtedly the most exciting of the piece.

“If the band’s self-titled debut was a demure introduction to their after-hours charm and 2009’s Machine Dreams a sojourn into funkier forms, Union builds on the strengths of both — it’s equal parts chill-out-room dreamy and club-friendly fierce. The effect was intentional. “It’s an album for multitasking,” says Bodin, 31. “Our aim is to make music for people to escape into or dance to.” Thus, “Light” tiptoes on sleekly propulsive bass lines and airy, lovelorn melodies, while “Ritual Union” shifts between burbling, kinetic rhythm patterns and Nagano’s deeply affecting little-girl-lost vocals.”

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