An ecstatic audience, looped melodies and day glow outfits – Nicholas L. Balfe reviews Little Dragon’s gig at the Brixton Academy last week
Little Dragon emerge one by one to the sound of an atmospheric synthesiser hum, an air of humble modesty about them, clashing somewhat with their kooky, day glow outfits.
They open with the meandering, slow-burning sprawl of A New, taken from 2006’s Machine Dream LP, but the pace is set by the up-tempo stomp of a favourite, Please Turn, with its squelchy, rolling bass offset by front woman Yukimi Nagano’s mesmerising vocals. Still, there’s a sense the Swedish four-piece need a few numbers to settle in. The opening bars of My Step are teased out with an almost Talking Heads-esque polyrhythmic percussion jam, that while technically flawless, is out of place so early on. But as they drop into the mid-tempo groove of Killing Me, from their most recent album Nabuma Rubberband, things seem to click. Bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin and keyboard player Håkan Wirenstrand create layer upon layer of rich, swirling soundscapes, while drummer Erik Bodin provides the backdrop.
Half an hour into the set, the Brixton Academy crowd are putty in Little Dragon’s hands. The jaunty, off-kilter rhythm of Precious opens up into a huge, sub bass-driven skank of track, that has the audience grinning from ear to ear. As Nagano bounces around the stage, neon tassels flailing as she goes, it’s clear that not only are the band here to have fun, they absolutely want us to too.
Four albums in and it’s still hard to categorise Little Dragon. There’s definitely a healthy dose of pop, there’s some electro noodling, and the odd moment of introspective shoe gazing too, but really this music is about making people dance. Throughout the set, existing tracks are augmented with additional percussion, looped melodies and extra bottom end, with incredible results.
There’s a self-assuredness about Little Dragon’s performance at the Brixton Academy that can only come from having spent the best part of two decades together. The show climaxes with a beefed-up version of Nabuma Rubberband single Klapp Klapp, which in turn segues into a full throttle instrumental jam that verges on techno. As Wallin, Wirenstrand and Bodin tweak their synths, sequencers and drum machines, at times it seems like this track could carry on building for hours. Judging by the ecstatic reactions of the audience, most of them would have wanted nothing more than for it to do just that.