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Earlier this year I discovered Blinking Pigs, a song on a double A-sided 7” by Little Dragon. The drums, sculpted cleverly out of multiple delays, fill every corner of the room but that’s nothing compared to the incredible and eerie voice of Swedish-Japanese Yukimi Nagano. In a flurry of harmonics reminiscent of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, she captured my heart with this little love song. I wanted more.
I dug around and noticed their first self-titled album from 2007 but to my ears it lacked the inspired emotions and nuanced vocals I was after. Several months later a seductive and soulful single again with this astounding voice work finally emerged called Feather and it was clear that this electro dream pop outfit from Gothenburg, Sweden, had been working hard at perfecting a brilliant new sound.
This September, their pristine cathedral of work was revealed: the Machine Dreams album. From start to finish Nagano’s vocals pleasantly flow in, around and over the drums of Erik Bodin, bass of Källgren Wallin and a wide range of electronic sounds constructed by the long bearded Håkan Wirenstrand. The album’s mood generally compliments something like a romantic dinner or an afternoon on the couch but it ventures into dancefloor territory on the “step, slide, lightning, fire, topical times” of 808 driven My Step and in the P-Funk boogie of Runabout.
There seems to be a lot of unwritten rules in electronic music these days. One standout moment on Machine Dreams is when Wirenstrand breaks two rules: he wields a crunchy clavichord tone along with a synthesized flute in the exquisitely exotic Swimming. And it works. On this number, Little Dragon leads us through a lush, tropical paradise that I imagine to be full of elated toucans and sneaky monkeys. The album ends on Fortune, an epic tune driven by a climbing melody embellished ever so slightly by Nagano’s breath, the perfect ending.
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