Pop Addict: Little Dragon’s Ritual Union

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Little Dragon: Ritual UnionLittle Dragon: Ritual Union (Peacefrog, 7/26/11)

Little Dragon: “Ritual Union”

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In the early 2000s, music exported from Sweden was notorious for its rock-n-roll demeanor. With acts like The Hives, The Sounds, and The Caesars coming of age in the earlier part of the last decade, the Scandinavian country quickly became associated with fast, raucous, danceable, and sometimes absurd music. But in the last five years or so, a new sensibility has emerged from Sweden. More soft-spoken, musically inclined acts, like Jose Gonzales or The Tallest Man on Earth, have emerged, and with them, a new style has been established. Among this new wave of Swedish exports is the highly acclaimed mellow-wave act, Little Dragon.

With its debut in 2007, the band made a name for itself in its home country as a digital minimalist. Its 2009 effort, Machine Dreams, garnered a bit more attention, but it wasn’t until Little Dragon collaborated with Gorillaz on Plastic Beach that much of the indie scene started paying attention. And now, with Ritual Union, the band has managed to release its best effort yet.

Ritual Union employs a diverse concoction of digital beats and synth-laden melodies, which, in many ways, is business as usual for Little Dragon. The upbeat “Little Man” uses very few instruments, instead driven by a relentless drumbeat and a simple synth melody. “Crystalfilm” slows things down while adhering to the sparse digital landscape on which Little Dragon prefers to tread.

However, the new album delves deeper into the electronica subgenre — navigating new terrain and exploring hidden passages. Standout “Brush the Heat” showcases a range of musical elements, never allowing a dull moment to persist. And though the title track remains true to its low-key grooves, Little Dragon is given room to flex its sonic muscles a bit and briefly eschew its regularly minimalist approach.

While Ritual Union might not be the band’s masterpiece, it certainly indicates that Little Dragon is headed in the right direction and that the best is yet to come. It’s only a matter of time before breaking the mold will lead to something ultimately enthralling and captivating. But for now, Ritual Union will do just fine.

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