Little Dragon Ritual Union(Peacefrog) Buy it from Insound
In music, there are few more harmonious marriages than that of female vocals and crisp electronic beats. While most genres seem to be dominated by male vocalists, electronic music has proven itself to be far more accepting: Björk, The Knife and Portishead are just a few examples of female-led mainstays of the genre.
Little Dragon have just about staked their claim as one of the better acts in their field, but Ritual Union won’t necessarily live up to the expectations of those who enjoyed their first two outings. Although the band have stuck with the retro-futuristic 8-bit sound of its predecessor, this album too often fails to really develop its ideas, making for an ultimately unfulfilling listen.
Once again, the band’s main strength lies in Yukimi Nagano’s vocals: while not exactly breathtaking, they’re smooth, melodic and unique. On the quieter tracks like Ritual Union, there’s a smoky jazz-club quality to her voice. Rarely straying beyond the middle range of the scale, she lacks the vocal dynamics to really grab you, but she does soft and sensual better than most.
And Little Dragon are quite capable of a very good tune. When I Go Out is almost reminiscent of Kid A/Amnesiac era Radiohead, mixing soft, rattling beats with discordant synths and weird harmonised vocals. Please Turn is more straightforward but no less catchy, with a moody bass line brought to life by an up-tempo two-step beat.
However, after giving this album a couple of listens there’s really not much to go back for. Many of these tracks seem aimless, relying on the same hooks for almost the entire duration. They’re crying out for some kind of chorus or change in direction, but instead settle for gradually building atmospherics that do little to develop the music. Ritual Union is catchy and well-produced, but it certainly doesn’t demand any more than a handful of listens.23 November, 2011 - 09:34 — Joel Stanier