Little Dragon present a stylistic hot-potch – shame then that only some of them stick.
Little Dragon are a curious beast.
Formed in 1996, the Gothenburg collective wantonly defy pigeonholing. Straddling electronic beat glitch, understated tight funk and euphoric dance, it wasn’t until the release of last year’s Ritual Union that the band broke through to mainstream consciousness.
The reason for their 15 years in the shadows are explicitly linked to that uncategorisable brand of pop which they peddle.
Yet Ritual Union, their third album, contains at least two BIG tunes – Little Man and the title track are undeniable belters and thanks to prime slots on Jools and the like, Little Dragon successfully crossed over. And the fruits of which are currently being milked on this their sell out UK tour.
It’s always an indication of a band on the brink of something serious when you can barely breathe, let alone move, inside the Kazimier (see Delphic and the xx for recent examples) yet like on record, Little Dragon‘s live machine, is a frustrating listen.
As set openers go, this was up there – cascading electronic beats grapple with Erik Bodin‘s live toms as Swedish-Japanese front woman Yukimi Nagano infectiously bounds around the stage in her natty summer-cap visor.
A two-track blitz they’re quickly into the eponymous single from their breakthrough album – and The Kazimier is in raptures; fizzing keyboards and Fredrik Källgren Wallin‘s distinctive bass hook makes for a midweek house party.
Yet from this prime position, it’s not long before proceedings plateau into a malaise of muddled electro and nu-baggy. It’s almost as if the band have shown their hand too early and they struggle to recapture the excitement – and indeed magic of what’s gone before.
Too often we find ourselves drifting off… Marvelling at keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand‘s mighty beard, wondering if Nagano‘s body stocking depicts an image of a wide-eyed piggy or that of an alien and how similar the bank of electronic drum pads resemble that of a giant make-up kit.
It hardly helps matters that to our left is an over-zealous drunk doing his best Bez impression; all flailing elbows and knees while spittle dribbles down his chin and sloshed Red Stripe goes flying. At the end of every track he roars ‘GO ‘EEEEEED, AGGGGGH!‘ Greb coating all those within six yards.
There are several moments when the band recapture that early momentum. A stunning instrumental passage recalls an early 90s euphoria while Little Man earns it’s own terrace-style chant as the boards take the strain from several hundred legs bouncing as one, but as the song alludes ‘there’s something missing,’ – it all seems a little too apt.
Early Holy Other provided dark propulsive pangs from his crows nest in the Kazimier.
Usually we’re the first to moan about dudes with laptops warming up for the main course, but there was something undeniably electric about the wave upon wave of unsettling, deeply immersive cuts raining down upon us.
Signed to Robin Carolan‘s Tri Angle records, Holy Other follows a lineage of the likes of How To Dress Well, Clams Casino and oOoOO, succeeding in presenting an oppressive textured wall which while threatening to do you damage is all the more inviting thanks to it’s beguilingly sinister mix.
That he’s draped in a black hood and has billowing assimilated smoke shooting from above it only adds to the enigmatic deliciousness. He’s probably a terrible bore.
Pictures by Marie Hazelwood.