|With their third album, Ritual Union, Little Dragon|
tighten up their minimal electro-R&B sound. Singer Yukimi Nagano has pipes but you will not hear any caterwaulin’. Keyboard commander Håkan Wirenstrand has chops but you won’t hear any hotdoggin’. Instead, the Little Dragon aesthetic impresses specific timbres at precise moments. On “When I Go Out,” a drum pad sizzle and atmospheric synth supply a window seat for Nagano’s processed vocals before breaking into a loose drum circle with clave clicks and synth swells that build tension but resist boiling over.As a whole, the record definitely brings the dance party. In fact, any of the up-tempo numbers on Ritual Union have more bounce to the ounce than an hour of any ’80s night.
The one-two punch of “Brush the Heat” and “Shuffle a Dream,” boasts shoulder-shrugging beats, call-and-response choruses, cowbells, and squealing synth licks that would make Bernie Worrell and Dr. Dre proud. Tracks like “Nightlight” showcase the band’s impressive palette of processed sounds. Live hi-hat mingles with scattered showers of Purple Rain drum pads. On the title track, Moogs and Korgs lock step, shuffle and segue into a synth interlude that is right out of Blade Runner.
The end of Ritual Union takes a down-tempo turn. Critics have been too quick to dismiss side B, but David Bowie’s 1977 album Low might be a useful reference. It’s easy to wear out side A of Low and ignore Bowie’s atmospheric experiments on side B. When you’ve mastered side A of Ritual Union, take off your dancing shoes, put a warm towel over your face, and Little Dragon will reward you when you turn the record over.