Recordoftheday.com highlight Little Dragon’s “Ritual Union” single

With its addictive groove and soulful vocal, Ritual Union is an excellent piece of electro-pop which looks set to push Little Dragon onto the edge of mainstream success. Among an impressive roll-call of collaborators so far includes Damon Albarn, who invited Little Dragon to feature on two tracks on Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach. SBTRKT flew Swedish-Japanese vocalist Yukimi Nagano over from their native Gothenberg to collaborate on Wildfire – one of his debut album’s highlights. Now Andre 3000 has tipped Big Boi off about the band, leading to an invite for them to perform on his next album. Radio coverage has started strongly with 6 Music supporting with a playlist addition and a Lauren Laverne live session and interview scheduled to happen this month. Ritual Union could be their tipping point with Radio 1 support lined up in the shape of an Annie Mac mini-mix the week of release. – Recordoftheday.com

Little Dragon’s Ritual Union EP released on iTunes

So, “Ritual Union”, the single, EP has been released on iTunes (American iTunes at least) for $3.49. At first I think the impression was that the remixes would be of Little Dragon songs from the forthcoming album, and while this is true I think people mixed up Ritual Union the LP with “Ritual Union” the single name, so it’s essentially a single release, but an exciting one nonetheless. The beautiful artwork is once again by the talented Jan Scharlau. Here’s the setlist:

1. Ritual Union
2. Ritual Union (Maya Jane Coles Remix)
3. Ritual Union (Tensnake Remix)
4. Nightlight (Unknown Mortal Orchestra Remix)

Click here to purchase from iTunes.

Soulculture.tv review Little Dragon’s Ritual Union record

Swedish electronic and synth-pop band Little Dragon return with their third studio album Ritual Union. Having won us over on their 2007 self-titled debut album with their adept left-field interpretation of contemporary American R&B and Soul music and with such beautiful songs as “Constant Surprises” and “Twice,” Yukimi Nagano and her Little Dragon quartet returned in 2009 with Machine Dreams. A further move to the left and away from the R&B and Soul roots of their debut album, Machine Dreams delved into more experimental, rich and luscious sounding Electro-Pop domain and boasted such exceptional records as “Fortune,” Thunder Love” and my personal favourite Little Dragon song, “Blinking Pigs”. Two years on and it seems the band have kept their fans waiting for long enough – but has our two year wait been well worth it?

The album’s title track and opener is quite the captivating start to this 11-track album. Kicking off with [and largely backed by] tingling guitar chords, snare sounds, sharp drum kicks and bouts of electro-goodness, “Ritual Union” provides the ample backdrop for Yukimi’s hauntingly ethereal vocals and compelling lyrics. Add the interjecting dreamy instrumentation and keyboard licks that are sprinkled all over the song and that lush synth-solo in the middle of “Ritual Union,” setting up the listener rather nicely for a thoroughly enjoyable listen to come.

“Brush the Heat” is immediately captivating. Once it begins and those glorious backing harmonies hit you after about five seconds, there’s really no turning back. The thumping drum patterns set in soon after, accompanied by a synth-line that roams throughout underneath the layers but also bursts into life at the forefront every now and again. Then Yukimi’s vocals – with a slightly darker and subdued tone than the album’s opener but equally compelling – kick in, taking centre stage with the musical backdrop (the drum patterns have dropped down a notch seemingly to match Yukimi’s subdued tone but the backing harmonies are still just as glorious) obliging to exquisitely wrap itself around Yukimi’s vocals to wonderful effects.

Another stand-out song on the album, “Shuffle A Dream” falls easily into an Electro-Pop box in the traditional sense of the subgenre with danceable, thumping electronic synth chords and basslines with glitchy, synthesized instrumental solos as a bed for Yukimi’s inviting vocals. The subtle and delicate manner in which “Shuffle A Dream” slides into “Please Turn” (you will not notice it’s a new song on some listens) is rather exquisite in itself. Albeit not as good “Shuffle A Dream,” the pleasant “Please Turn” is also backed by a thumping bass line but also accompanied by bold drum kicks and glitchy and fast-paced synth chords and progressions.

“Precious” is certainly worthy of mention just for how immense it sounds. From the commanding drum-led introduction to the electronic bass line and drum patterns that form the musical milieu of the record to Yukimi’s arresting vocals (high-pitched, then low-pitched, then high again) to the lush body-moving chord and synth progressions backed by head-bopping drum kicks and interjecting quick-fire drum machine goodness that take over the second half of the record, this is pure electronic goodness from start to finish.

“Nightlight” is the official first single from the Ritual Union album (“Ritual Union” is the second and latest single) and you can immediately see why. This is vintage Little Dragon while still remaining largely similar in temperament to mainstream Pop music. Starting off with a bold and pounding drum break before switching into full Pop mode with lush keyboard chords, ethereal synths and a catchy drum pattern, this song captures much of the essence of Little Dragon as a quartet.

“Summertearz” and “When I Go Out” are easily two of my favourite songs on the album and I love how both songs entwine seamlessly. The instrumentation on “Summertearz” is so catchy and the way in which Yukimi weaves her vocals and backing harmonies around this record is so captivating that it’s very hard and near-on impossible not to be interested. Whereas “When I Go Out” sets a darker tone with echoey lingering vocals from Yukimi, a fast-paced and almost minimal-sounding drum pattern and the amazingly trippy instrumentation led by glorious synths, excellent variations of that existing fast-paced drum pattern and big cinematic musical backdrops that come in just over the two minute mark.

I should spend at least a few words to mention the songwriting and lyrical dexterity on this album, of which “Crystalfilm” and “11 Seconds” are such ample examples. Much has been said about Little Dragon’s musical abilities and Yukimi’s excellent vocal presence and gift and it could be so easy to overlook how good the writing on this record is – but only at our own peril. You definitely have to listen attentively on much of this album because you’d be lost in the excellent music otherwise but you’ll be better for it if you do pay attention to the words.

I also especially love the overall cohesiveness of this record from track one to 11; all tracks seamlessly joined together, weaving in and out of each other so effortlessly that sometimes it feels like you’re listening to one singular, glorious Little Dragon music session. No sooner than you’ve pressed play on the first song “Ritual Union” and you’re zoning out to the amazing songs, music and vocals on the album do you realise that it’s already back at the beginning song already.

Thoroughly enjoyable and compelling with immense repeat play value.

Little Dragon – Ritual Union
Released: July 25, 2011
Label: Peacefrog
Soulculture.co.uk

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

Little Dragon’s Ritual Union LP to be released on July 26th

Ritual Union has bounded an extra two weeks into our future with the release date having jumped from the 12th to the 26th of July. Fear not, this is actually being released and in an age of lacking patience we all have to sit just that bit tighter. Video teasers for further songs featured on the record arriving in the coming days. As for now, spread the word.

Ritual Union LP to land on July 12th or 26th?

As was first expected, Ritual Union is set to be released on July 12th. Today, the line “Ritual Union album is set to drop on July 26th. We’re cooking up some sweet pre-orders for you so stay tuned” featured in Little Dragon’s newsletter, however. A two week delay? Maybe a mix-up in geographical release dates? Probably a delay, but at least not a mammoth delay. And “sweet” pre-order packages on the horizon, too? I can deal with the delay for the added spice.

Additional news:

Independent Label Market, Berwick Street: “On our [Peacefrog’s] stall we will be selling the first batch of our 20th anniversary releases – classics repressed on coloured vinyl (limited to 300) including DBX, Neil Landstrumm and Theo Parrish releases + our recently available collectors 7″ of Ritual Union (the title track from the forthcoming Little Dragon album) and the odd catalogue CD.” Source.

Updated tour dates:

May 23 – Barbi, Tel Aviv
May 26 – Intimate KCRW performance 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
Aug 14 – Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival, San Francisco, CA
Sept 03 – Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival, Seattle, WA
Sept 04 – North Coast Music Festival, Chicago, IL

I’m heading to LA next week, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to make it to the UCLA Jazz Festival on the 29th. Good luck to anyone and everyone who entered the contest today as part of the newsletter. And if you’re reading the word “newsletter” with a quizzical brow, then do yourself a favour, sign up here, and get called a “Dragon” / “Hiya Dragons”.

Little Dragon expose us to “Brush The Heat”

We’ve not got a fifth teaser for the forthcoming third record, Ritual Union, this time in the shape of the third track on the record, “Brush The Heat”. This was performed Monday night at Melkweg, Amsterdam, Holland. Forgive the quality and treat it only as a teaser. But it is a groovy teaser, am I right?

This album can not come soon enough.