Little Dragon – Slugs of Love (Ninja Tune)

Little Dragon – Slugs of Love (Ninja Tune)

Taking an intermission from our anxiety-riddled lives to have fun now and again can be so invigorating and motivational. If you need a helping hand in topping up your dopamine levels, look no further than the fun-spreaders Little Dragon; the Swedish quartet’s seventh album Slugs Of Love embraces the intuitive fun that the group are having when making music, complimented by the album cover, which is the first in their history to feature a band picture. In the dispensable money-back business of music, it’s understandable that many acts can be so tip-toeingly cautious in their method towards production that it lacks a soul or jollification, aiming to simultaneously please audiences and their record labels. However vocalist Yukimi Nagano and her long-term buddies Fredrik Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand and Erik Bodin have reached a stage in their growing catalogue where they are in an advantageous position; not only do they have a loyal fan base that have followed them since their 2007 low key self-titled debut, as well as a bank of credibility and plaudits from critics for their consistently brilliant yet transitional take on electronic soul, they also have their own studio, which they have visited almost daily for the last 20 years. This all gives the Gothenburgers the freedom to have unforced, naturally evolving fun and endless experimentation in what they call their bubble, before eventually releasing in the wild. Yet the tinkering never gets in the way of creating really enjoyable memorable songs.

The silliness of title-track of ‘Slugs Of Love‘ could have been ridiculous but because it’s performed by the ever-reliable Little Dragon, they pull it off with style. The addictive earworm recalls ‘Rock Lobster’ by the The B-52’s in its base riff, drumming energy and its use of an anthropomorphic approach to animals. While the Georgia group’s creatures are full of vigour, Little Dragon are comparing the slugs to the growing laziness of humans. Yet at the same time embracing their uniformity and need for love and safety; “Endless ecstasy, I feel it all. Endless craving, a sluggish ball.” Yukimi Nagano also shows a new theatrical vibrance to her voice that also pushes the song’s element of joy.

Nagano also has fun vocally on ‘Disco Dangerous,’ a song which channels the sparkly sweet Motown soul of Minnie Riperton and Anita Ward, while also displaying a humorous attitude towards the subject of love. The Swedish-Japanese singer utilizes her vocal ability in a whistling manner on the opener ‘Amöban’– which along with its breakbeat backing sounds it could be Fat Boy Slim song from the 1990s. The track highlights the Swedish group’s evolution from caring about how their songs are perceived to seizing their free-flowing nature: “Sharе a song, a poem, a painting. A scary thing when looked from other eyes. And when judgement fall. Just start to sing along. Why you tryna, why you tryna be so good? Stop trying to impress the world now.

Frisco‘ beautifully splits its production into two halves, encompassing Little Dragon’s entering of one era for the next. It initially tackles the subject of hesitation (“If I fall in and relax, will I float?”) as they perform in an neo-soul style a kin to their early work. Nagano then bridges the two sections with the narration of “I’m opening the door now. Letting through my shine away”, as a techno vibe builds up without ever really exploding. ‘Easy Falling’ displays Little Dragon’s unusual venture into a softer more acoustic-guitar led sound a kin to Fleetwood Mac – but it wouldn’t be them without a little electronic flourish and percussion playfulness in the background for good measure.

Like with most Little Dragon works of art, Slugs of Love contains two stunning cinematic moments within it’s core that you can both applaud for its experimentation and also sit back and let its science-fiction tranquillity wash over you. ‘Glow’ is a precisely six-minute surreal collaboration with Damon Albarn – although he sounds like David Bowie Space Oddity – era on here – that features surprises such as a descending shepard tone, ethereal wooshing sounds and clavinet magic as the duo become “under the spell of the eyes that paralyse me”. The other wow moment is on ‘Lily’s Call’, with sounds like it’s composed by Cliff Martinez (The Neon Demon, Copenhagen Cowboy) but with extra elements of fuzzy, vitreous and hydrological production qualities.

Penultimate song ‘Tumbling Dice‘ may have the most straightforward production on Slugs Of Love, but it carries the album’s most powerful message, as well as giving the ultimate reason for us to follow in Little Dragon’s clawsteps in having fun: “I’ll be gone in a flash, let’s dance till we go. One day all of us will be buried in stone. Take a breath, make it worth every step as we go tumbling in the wind.”

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