Although there never seems to be enough diversity in the realm of electronic music, upon further review there is a massive amount of genres, styles and sounds to get involved in. Throughout the years electronic music has seen its fair share of umbrellas where many other genres and sub-genres are formed; while many bands and artists continue to drive towards more free-form expression and less tight and concise parameters. Little Dragon has definitely benefitted from being able to fashion tight-knit chemistry that purely leads to terrific results. Sounds where electronic meets all kinds of styles – while maintaining a steadfast influence of greatness in the likes of Portishead and Broadcast – their newest album, Ritual Union, is definitely diverse enough for anyone to enjoy.
The smashing single, “Nightlight,” has developed a following simply because it was released three months before the album appeared. Poppy, full of dynamic beats and confident presence, along with singer Yukimi Nagano’s sugary vocals, the song was a winner in all respects. Before this, Nagano was found on Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, lending her pipes to a couple of the album’s aesthetic songs; now, the band sounds shiningly full of life with her all over again. If nothing else, “Nightlight” firmly represents the band’s strengths in enticingly catchy ways: melodic phrases that turn into stunning choruses, propulsive rhythms and thriving musicianship. This formula continues throughout Ritual Union’s glowing music and as such, the album is an exceptional fruition.
The term ‘trip-hop’ has certainly died down from when bands like the aforementioned Portishead made it so popular. The style of trip on Little Dragon’s songs comes off as much more on pace than jagged and inversed. The beats act as flavor to the songs and add dynamic range to each song’s singular flows. The title track blends smooth, sparkling synths and an intrepid snare drum behind Nagano’s stellar voice and later, on “Summertearz,” the song encases drum set, pounding ancestral drums and syncopated rhythms for a heavily tribal sense. Like a modern-day Broadcast – with more melody and less gloom – the latter is a beat-laden wonder that highlights spastic styles with lulling tones. This trip-hop is much more infused with harmony and never losing pulse, there is a strong support of it all over the album.
The band definitely lightens the mood from time to time and as the cover depicts, this is a somewhat celebratory style the band is inflecting. On “Shuffle a Dream” they bridge sublime keyboard tones with a blissful fusion of synth and hi-hat cymbal. The song dashes with hints of R&B, a la Janelle Monáe, but with a clearer side of songwriting. On Ritual Union Little Dragon sounds both invigorated by the life around them and superbly crafting some of the best songs of their career. If diversity is key, this album certainly has it in abundant strength and as more is revealed, the range of the band takes over. It’s more than a successful achievement and one to definitely remember as the year winds down.