Album Review: Little Dragon – Ritual Union

little dragon ritual union

It’s strange, sometimes my favourite music is the kind of music I can’t entirely wrap my head around. I don’t get it, nor do I feel like trying to. I just want to let it play at me, around me, on me, in me. The music might even be more important than the lyrics, sometimes. It’s the way it makes me feel. It’s like if someone was to crack open my head and see the inside thoughts and feelings as albums, what would they be?

Little Dragon’s minimal electro-soul album Ritual Union has joined this realm of music for me. I’ve been listening to it non-stop for weeks, and each time I get something new out of it. I’m starting to figure it out, but at first I just wanted it to grace my ears. I wanted to keep getting that feeling of exhilaration that an album hasn’t really given me this year yet because it’s just so good. Now when I listen, it makes me dance or tap my fingers on my purse or leg as I walk. It makes me think. It keeps me coming back. It does what it should.

So what is it about Ritual Union that I respond to?

The synths and percussion pairing

One cannot be without the other on Ritual Union. There are so many exciting layers. They’ll hit you in the face or you won’t even notice until a few listens in. They fit so effortlessly together, even though they could be moving at different beats and frequencies. But they’re not trying to be puzzle pieces and fit crevice to crevice. This is a stacked, 3D puzzle with a mind of its own, and your mind will be all “this works!” It’s hypnotizing.

Examples: “Ritual Union,” “Shuffle a Dream,” “Nightlight,” “Precious”

Yukimi Nagano’s voice

Woaaaah, soul! First off, you wouldn’t be able to tell girl’s from Sweden but doesn’t that make it so much sweeter knowing it? She shows control but passion, from starting us off a little on the vulnerable side in “Ritual Union” (and again in “Please Turn” as she wails ‘please! pull the string now! turn the winds all round and round!’) to coming into this vortex of confidence and attitude in “Brush the Heat” and “Precious” to reigning over mystery in “Nightlight.” She’s an incredible vocalist, with soul, R&B and pop tones. And it’s not just the instruments that are layered, she gets that treatment too.

The lyrics

Ritual Unions have got me in trouble again / I was wonderin’ how the white dress and the mistress and the spirit are holding my hand

There’s something missing in your smile / there’s something missing in your soul / are you suffering the blues? / Tell me why, tell me when, tell me why, when

I’m giving in to the rhythm on my feet / brush the heat

I fly like a heroine

Just some phrases I have caught and loved. From catching pieces of what Yukimi is singing, I’m intrigued to find out what they are. What I have heard (not just what’s here as an example) is enlightening and simply poetic.


Ritual Union is an album to me that just completely works. It knows itself and what it’s going for, and I just need to sit here and enjoy it. Every spark that the Little Dragons bring to their flame feels like it was well thought out in the process of their time together, but there are definitely fun moments that feel like someone could have pressed a key or a button and realized that it worked. Ritual Union is a stroke of luck in that sense and that it’s coming to us.

Little Dragon was introduced to me through their Glastonbury set by a coworker. Then I heard “Nightlight” and was put under a spell. Then Ritual Union kicked me right in the chest and I’m still dizzy. It’s working its way up to be quite likely my #1 of 2011 so far, beating out two albums that I thought were pretty locked in.

PS – Read this explanation of every song by the band themselves, over on DIY.


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