This is music for lazy days in the park, late night trains, and small gatherings with...
Angus Taylor 2007
Little Dragon are four school-friends from Gothenburg who play sparse, quirky, genre-bending music around singer Yukimi Nagano’s eerie yet heartfelt tones. This is sure to lead to comparisons with Bjork, as well as Kate Bush, but there is also a soul element to their sound (the progressive end, like Shuggie Otis or Prince; the level of whimsy on display here would not impress fans of say Ann Peebles) as well as touches of jazz and 80s pop.
Their eponymous debut starts with a ballad, “Twice”, a lilting but authoritative piano piece which turns on a distinctive sliding bass-line, before wandering into experimental dance (i.e. not very danceable) on the aptly named “Turn Left”. The soul influences don’t appear until track three, a small hours groove called “No Love”, but remain through the funky minimal “Recommendation”, and the slack, syncopated “Constant Surprise”.
Other ingredients feature in this musical smorgasbord too: “Forever” has some 80s digi dub sub bass, “After The Rain” skips along to jazzy high hat before arpeggiating wildly at the end, while “A Place To Belong” combines cascading synths with a murky, mildly threatening bass, and an unpredictable melody that just pulls back from noodling indulgence.
The pace picks up for “Test”, (their most danceable track, to a classic Prince style echoing phased drumbeat) and “Wink” which finishes with some enjoyably silly synth and vocal interplay; before coming to rest with “Scribbled Paper” - all pizzicato, jazz brushes and double bass.
The production hovers between trippy and minimal, refusing to commit; the trendy “bedroom” sound eliminating any grandiosity which might have rendered this record “out of” rather than of its time. Something tells me they’re a lot stronger and funkier live.
So while not as original as the hype suggests – Shuggie Otis did much of this decades ago to a funkier beat - Little Dragon have some nice songs and are experts in creating moods which are both ambivalent and poignant at the same time. This is music for lazy days in the park, late night trains, and small gatherings with close friends. A subtle ‘grower’ and a promising start.