Little Dragon Machine Dreams Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A surprising concoction of digi-funk, down-tempo rhythms and twitchy electronica.

Lou Thomas 2009

Back in 2007, Gothenburg's enticing tech-pop alchemists Little Dragon released their eponymous debut. With Machine Dreams they’ve followed that auspicious and surprising concoction of digi-funk, subtle down-tempo rhythms and twitchy electronica with an equally beguiling and neatly layered album.

Amid an intricate tangle of strings, beats and bleeps singer Yukimi Nagano's haunting, elliptical voice again takes centre stage, with good reason.

During Never Never, notable for its synth restraint in a pop landscape of Calvin Harris and Lady GaGa electro bombast, Nagano jerks her words out in intriguing fashion; she sings the way Mike Skinner raps, teasing the sentences out syllable by syllable.

On the minimal, shuffling Thunder Love (which sounds as spookily comforting as finding your way out of a forest at dusk) Nagano reminds listeners of her vocal similarity to Cocteau Twins siren Liz Fraser. Both possess heartbreaking croons, even if their lyrics are often unintelligible. Musically, Prince and fellow Swedish iconoclasts The Knife remain key influences.

Looking Glass, replete with Nagano's stretching of ''you'' into a word five times its length, is Love Action by The Human League with added Sign O' The Times crunch, while opener A New is all glacial synth atmospherics and woodblock, like Vangelis having a contemporary attempt at his seminal Blade Runner soundtrack.

Aside from Håkan Wirenstrand's keyboard dexterity, the percussive skills of Erik Bodin add much to Machine Dreams. The fidgeting beats of My Step, polyrhythmic clatter of Runabout and dancehall syncopation of Come Home are all essential components of the overall sound.

Fans of Little Dragon will be desperate to know if this second record has a moment as ineffably wondrous as Twice, from their self-titled debut. If you’re such a person, you might well find a similarly affecting track in album closer Fortune. There may not be another slice of airy (and Air-y) dream pop quite as terrific produced this year, and it’s a fitting conclusion to this sensually essential album.

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