It’s been a banner year for out-there R&B. From the beat-stretching of James Blake and SBTRKT to the straight up baby-making of The Weeknd, rhythm and blues has never before been as dynamically diverse while still keeping a strong, singular soulful lineage.
Ritual Union, the third album from Gothenburg, Sweden’s Little Dragon, dropped July 25 and continues this year’s ascension of astral-sounding, soulful electronica with a record that deftly balances dance, dub and pop.
It’s always difficult to describe music that sounds like it’s from the future, but here goes: this is the music Janet Jackson would make if she actually lived in the “Scream” video; or the music Prince would beam home if he was forced to live isolated in space like the guy in Moon.
But for all it’s forward-thinking sounds, some of the grooves sometimes get a little rutted. Singer Yukimi Nagano has a perfect pop voice, but when she’s the only voice on the record, you tend wonder what other possibilities exist. (Such is the case when you push envelopes.) It would be welcome, for instance, to hear a change of pace from some of their champions and collaborators like Big Boi, Damon Albarn or Raphael Saadiq for a change of pace.
These faults, though, are easily overlooked. Ritual Union is an interesting, ear-worming record, easily worthy of a place on your future-pop playlist.