KCRW review Little Dragon’s Ritual Union LP

I truly enjoy seeing the evolution of a band through their music. Little Dragon is a perfect example of that on their third studio full-length, Ritual Union. The Swedish quartet, fronted by singer Yukimi Nagano, is a gorgeous mix of soul, R&B, rock, funk, synth-pop and electronica. It is a very captivating sound that’s had me since the band’s first singles several years back. When the first single of the new album “Nightlight” surfaced, I immediately knew something different was on the horizon. The new record brings something that we have not seen before. This is evident in the band’s use of slightly more aggressive sounds and dynamic vocals that are a bit more intertwined from one track to the next, though they never lose the dreamy pop sensibility that has made their songs so addictive.

My first love of music comes from the dance floor, so to hear more use of electronic, uptempo and dance rhythms makes Little Dragon’s new release much more of a winner for me. That dance influence creates a very interesting mix with Negano’s vocals that sometimes dip into a quirky and folky vibe. Ritual Union definitely has a beginning, a middle and an end. This journey is what makes the album so intoxicating. The opening title piece gets the party started. Then you bob and weave on this musical roller coaster all the way until the end. The closing cut, “Seconds” rounds out the record and is reminiscent of a softer, gentler Kraftwerk that can be a lullaby to chill out and fall asleep to. I can’t wait to see Little Dragon play this new batch of tunes live. It is impossible for anyone to sit still during their shows and their concerts always take the music to the next level. – KCRW

Listen to “Brush The Heat”, “Crystalfilm”, and “Little Man” now!

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Here are streaming recordings of three Ritual Union tracks, previewed on KCRW just a few nights ago. Downloading has not been enabled as these are for preview-pleasure only. The presenter (Aaron Byrd) is present on a couple of the tracks, as are moments of silence. Remember, buy the record for the best experience possible of each song. Thoughts? Favourites?

For those who don’t want to listen until release day, here’s a vague low-down:

“Brush The Heat” provides alien-siren synthesiser calls over drawn out keyboard tones, and Yukimi just sits on the layers breathing syllables so sprite. This track is completely relaxed and composed.

“Crystalfilm” is a smouldering sound with an astute pulse that just drags you in and forces the ride upon you. Darkest of the three, and most certainly akin to Little Dragon LP material. Imagine that album taken to another level, and it’s the only comparison worthy because this band does not allow for outside comparison. Little Dragon is relative to Little Dragon only.

“Little Man” you’ve probably already heard. Now, unless Aaron Byrd provided a radio edit or cut the song short, “Little Man” surprisingly comes in at just over the two minute mark, which is astounding for a song that the band have stretched to almost six minutes at times when live. This felt so different from the live version when I first heard it, but I’ve become so attuned to it now that it just fits. Make sure to look out for the slight vocal strain on “smile” within the line, “There’s something missing in your smile.” It’s remarkably fitting.

Let’s fall in love all over again.

How to listen to “Little Man”, “Brush The Heat”, and “Crystalfilm”

As pointed out by visitor “gah” in the last post, one can listen to KCRW archives on www.kcrw.com/archive. When you visit that link you can come across Aaron Byrd’s latest show for “6/3/2011″. Here is the link to the actual audio show. Now, here’s the interesting bit and I think it’s only fair to quote Gah on this one: “Aaron Byrd played “Brush the Heat” @ 0:10:38, “CrystalFilm” @ 1:50:43, & “Little Man” @ 2:45:25.” So what are you waiting for? Go listen! I’ve given each one a listen and am a bit gob-smacked right now. This record is going to be incredible. What does everyone think?

Little Dragon’s “Brush The Heat” featured on KCRW today

Edit: You can dismiss the nonsense of the ramblings below as I got the information completely wrong (i.e. cannot read time). Malcolm, a kind visitor to the site, left a comment saying that they played “Brush The Heat” last night. Hopefully the track has been recorded by someone or will feature again in the coming days. Thank you so much for the heads up, Malcolm.

Here’s a live performance of “Brush The Heat” in Amsterdam last month.

Old: @twittledragon featured this tweet earlier today and it would seem that a new track from Ritual Union will feature on Californian radio today. I wonder if this will actually be the title track as featured here or possibly a studio version of “Little Man” or “Summertearz” or something else? I’ll be tuning in to find out. Midday Californian time and 20:00 GMT. Commence excitement.

Little Dragon perform for KCRW 89.9, 2009

This is an older showcase of performances by Little Dragon, playing three tracks from Machine Dreams at the KCRW 89.9 studios, but it may be the strongest example of their prowess as a live entity. The band are so tight (brought about in no part to Bodin’s specificity and the band’s undoubted work ethic) with a vibrancy and buoyancy all their own, and the transition from record to room happens without the loss of a single drop of the magic and dream like quality of the studio material. Go ahead, listen. Prove me wrong.

“Morning Becomes Eclectic”, November 3, 2009

“A New”

The rhythmic section is so taut (check 02:18 for the cool subtlety of a big band drum line), Yukimi’s voice is determined and soars in short bursts, and the synth is a frozen layer over bubbling bass. You can tell I like this song, can’t you?

“My Step”

We’ll allow Fredrik to own this sonic world. And check out that jazzy/electronic/dance breakdown at the end. A typical song structure with atypical sounds and a demanding length that fizzes by in a haze.


“Uh, this next song is called “Swimming.”” The submerged dance floor anthem. Håkan’s keys are glorious. How are they not topping the charts? It’s an insult. It shall be their day soon.

Little Dragon provide tour update

The band released an update of touring the other day in their very first newsletter (sign up here):

May 2- Nanjing Festival, China
May 5- Parken, Gothenburg, Sweden
May 6- Strand Club, Stockholm, Sweden
May 8- Vega, Denmark, Copenhagen
May 9- Melkweg, Amsterdam, Holland
May 11- Heaven, London, UK
May 12- King Tuts, Glasgow, UK
May 13- Digital, Brighton, UK
May 14- TBA, UK
May 15- AB Club, Brussels, Belgium
May 16- Café de la Danse, Paris, France
May 17- Bird, Rotterdam, Netherlands
May 19- Franz Club, Berlin, Germany
May 26- KCRW session, Los Angeles, CA
May 29- UCLA JazzReggae Festival, Los Angeles, CA
May 30- Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Detroit, MI
June 2- State Theatre, Falls Church, VA
June 4- The Roots Picnic, Philadelphia, PA
June 10- Caribana Festival, Crans-pres-Celigny, Switzerland
June 11- Volt Festival, Uppsala, Sweden
June 16- Sonar Festival, Barcelona, Spain
June 24- Glastonbury Festival, UK
July 15- Melt Festival, Grafenhainichen, Germany
July 23- Soundwave Festival, Petrcane, Croatia
August 14- Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA

(Click here for a the high quality version of the tour flyer as designed by Jan Scharlau.)

Want to join the KCRW session? Just click on the link provided above to give yourself a hopeful chance. Drop us a line if you intend on visiting any show and good luck with ticket hunting.