Monday, 21 July 2014

Little Dragon @ Somerset House, Summer Series


Closing this year’s Summer Series at Somerset House were Little Dragon, whose experimental electro provided a spectacular ending as they played to an enthusiastic crowd who braved the rain – despite never really having a mainstream hit.

There’s undoubtedly something incredibly alluring about their music.  Perhaps it’s their use of moody synths, the setlist comprising tracks from their recent album ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ as well as their past material.  A hypnotic opening led into the evocative Mirror and its curiously dissonant chiming, whilst the techno atmospherics of Only One that closed the show gradually evolved into a full rave.  In between, were the sombre calls of current single Pretty Girls, the menacing basslines of Killing Me and Please Turn, and the neon bleeps and bloops of Ritual Union and My Step, amongst others.  Swinging from ethereal minimalism to sparkling alt-pop, the sounds are as enchantingly mesmeric as they are deeply sensual.

Or perhaps it’s the powerfully rhythmic beats that shudder through the body, from the thunderous crashes of Mirror or Killing Me, to the industrial funk shuffles of Shuffle A Dream and Test, the glitchy Ritual Union, and the erotically charged tribal crashes of Klapp Klapp.  The crowd were, of course, dancing throughout.  The extended length of certain songs was the only major criticism, leaving no time for the excellent Paris from their most recent release (or the radio-friendly Sunshine).

The setting certainly helped the ambience, the twilit courtyard of Somerset House presenting a clash of neo-classical architecture and ultra-modern sounds.  Smoke rose over the audience in the fading sunlight, punctuated by sombre blue hues, a full spectrum of rainbow neon and shimmering coloured lasers.  It was the perfect backdrop to the band’s seductive, nocturnal evocations.

Most of all, the band’s appeal comes from Swedish-Japanese frontwoman Yukimi Nagano, who personifies their icy Scandinavian cool and quirky oriental futurism.  Her vocals range from soft coos and breathy sighs to soulful guttural utterances, whilst she slinks and shuffles around the stage conducting each beat and pulse with her tambourine.  She is the little dragon, and not even the rain could extinguish her fire.

4/5

Listen: 'Nabuma Rubberband' is available now.