Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Little Dragon – Somerset House, London 20/07/14

25 July 2014, 11:00 | Written by Kathleen Prior

Having once described singing as “kind of an explosive job”, Yukimi Nagano proved herself as quite the little pocket rocket. Bounding around the stage she bombarded us with brazen effervescence. Her outfit was a two-piece lycra number that sparkled like a clear night sky might. At Somerset House, the night was far from it. Dark clouds hung low and the air was filled with wet spray, somewhat fitting for the moody synths and crisp trickling melodies of Little Dragon’s output.

The drizzle had not deterred the crowd - the courtyard was rammed with people seemingly straight from parks, garden and rooftops with sunglasses propped onto heads and even a bat and ball game poking from one chap’s pocket. If anything, the rain had cut the wheat from the chaff. Even for myself, whom considers Little Dragon one of my favourite live acts, the evening’s plans had been pulled into question when after the balmy and sun-bleached weekend the clouds descended dropping rain in sheets. But like many other determined fans; we came, we saw and we danced our socks off.

Giddy from the urban heatwave - and it seemed very few of us had heeded Government advice to stay indoors and drink lots of water - the neoclassical courtyard became a jovial muddle of a garden party. Strangers bumped and nestled, swinging their arms around each other, giggling and sharing remarks of awe. An impressive multicoloured laser show made rainbows dance across faces and the mist iridescent like glitter. London’s 18th century former palace rippled with Little Dragon’s subversive futuristic beats and the swell of an emphatic crowd.

Despite a musical career spanning four albums and eight years, and a name widely recognisable even outside muso circles, Little Dragon have never hit super stardom. Their gradual rise to fame plateaued, and although they receive consistent positive reviews, they have never achieved anything above a number 76 hit in the UK music chart and only made it to the John Peel stage for ‘up and coming talent’ at Glastonbury this year. This may be a personal choice or the result of some bad decisions - it is widely claimed that they refused potential collaborations with triple A-listers such as Pharrell Williams.

Their sound is malleable yet instantly recognisable - there is something in their simple metronomy that evokes a sense of familiarity. Yukimi’s voice is crystal clear and clinically precise, beautiful though without an emotional depth. She says she writes lyrics that are personal but have an ambivalence to them, perhaps savouring her privacy. The songs are accessible, encompassing strands of a multitude of genres from trip-hop to folk to create a quirky danceable pop. The rebellion of their sound to be pigeonholed may stem from Yukimi’s own jigsaw background; as well as being dual heritage with parents from the US and Japan, she was born in New York, grew up in Brazil and calls Sweden home.

Tonight she seems right at home. She frolics on the stage, brandishing her tambourine and whooping with unadulterated exaltation. Her energy was addictive, though she obviously hadn’t partied quite as hard as my little crew. Our tired little feet did their best to keep up with the frantic star, while our livers groaned as we consumed our umpteenth unit. Needless to say, it wasn’t the first dance floor that we had stumbled upon that weekend. Her voice carried pure and strong across scandi-pop ballads like “Pretty Girls”, while all guns were set a’blazing on “Klapp Klapp” with its rippling sci-fi samples and soaring trills. It is subtle musical hooks such as those that twinge the ear and relentlessly tug.

The male members of the band, Erik Bodin (drums), Fredrik Källgren Wallin (bass) and Håkan Wirenstrand (keyboards) are seamless and reserved. They steal no limelight from the namesake of their musical venture, despite Erik being the writer of the majority of Ritual Union, their most acclaimed album. The blend of traditional instruments and produced samples strikes a satisfying balance, while ensuring that fingers on the stage were kept busy with producing live sounds. Unlike some another electronic outfits who seem to perform an entire set by moving just a finger or two every few minutes, with the rest clearly pre-recorded.

Reverb heavy percussion on “Mirror” was amplified as it echoed around the stone courtyard with Yukimi’s gliding, haunting vocals. The gradual, restrained piano riff of “Twice”, one of their earliest singles, with its neo-soul whispers drew contrast to the upbeat yet threatening “Little Man”, showing the evolution of their style from smooth bassy blues to a minimal pulsing electronica. But it was on “Ritual Union” that I felt my heart soar. With my hands raised and the refreshing flick of rain on my upturned face, I was one of many who sung and hung on every word. Somerset House dazzled in the aesthetical and aural beauty of it all - and I was glad my sequinned dancing shoes had been given one last pounding after a very long, hot weekend.

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