Sound: Little Dragon are one of those artists who will only remembered outside their own country by their collaborations. Having teamed up with both SBTRKT and Gorillaz, it is a shame that they will only be known for their cameo roles when not in Sweden. What makes it even worse is that "Ritual Union" is a really great record. Fronted by Yukimi Nagano, Little Dragon have made one of the most interesting pieces of 2011 electronic pop. The repeated phrases and dynamic drumming contrast very nicely with Yukimi's swirling vocals. Little Dragon tracks are made instantly recognizable by her vocal delivery. Yukimi can be likened to Bjork, through their eccentricity and their mysterious nature. Whereas Bjork tends to ethereally drift around her song, Yukimi tends to be more direct, but still retain an aura of mystery. On "Ritual Union", the title track and the album's opener, she ponders marriage and almost inevitable infidelity, like petals falling from a flower. This imagery is in stark contrast to the predominately electronic instrumentation, but fits her tender voice. // 7
Lyrics: I could listen to Yukimi all day. She has a lovely soft delivery that never falls into predictability. She is poignant on the opener, "Ritual Union", but by the end, on "Seconds", she seems weaker and pleading. She is a woman of many talents, seen as she takes the back seat on "When I Go Out", making way for the atmospheric, drum-driven electronic audio sculpture that the track is. I have made the Bjork comparison, but I feel they differ in several ways, other than their approach to subject matter. Yukimi still uses imagery, but her imagery and indeed her delivery strike me as a lot less sexual than the flurried urgency or the temptress nature of certain Bjork songs.
When it comes to lyrics, or singers, I can't ask for more from Little Dragon. Having seen them perform live, I have seen that Yukimi is as involved as the music suggests, flitting from one side of the stage to the next and dancing during the instrumental breaks. Through her performance and on the record she is one of the most captivating singers on the independent circuit. // 10
Overall Impression: If forced to choose, I would single out "Ritual Union" as Little Dragon's best record to date. It is far more consistent than "Machine Dreams" and more cohesive than the self titled debut. It doesn't have the cringe, near lost-in-translation moments of the song "Constant Surprises" and it doesn't overstay its welcome like "Twice" (as nice as that song is).
After listening to the album, one will take a way many things. One will remember the solid, driving bass groove of "Precious", one will remember the electronic slice of atmosphere on "When I Go Out" and one will remember the shoe-stomping "Please Turn" for the alien chorus. If you are in the market for some electronic pop music than be enjoyed on both a dancefloor and intellectual level, then this is where your ears need to be. // 8