Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry, Mastered by Sam Patlove
We weren't going to let some tragic bad luck kill a session with this great, new and young Swedish electronic band Little Dragon. Originally, we were set for a session with the four-piece from Gothenburg, Sweden, last fall as they were passing through the Midwest, but a last minute conflict here in Rock Island left us with a sack full of sorries and promises to make it up to them soon, but no taping in the can. Fortunately for all, we were able to make good on those promises soon thereafter as the group was making a swing through Austin a day before the South By Southwest festival was set to begin - getting in and out of town before the grind of the rodeo took full effect. It was the same day that Hank III and Motorhead were in town, playing for the early arrivals and townies, and in the few short months since we'd last seen them in Rock Island, Little Dragon had graduated into a touring band with a bus instead of a van. It was the very first thing that we were taping at Big Orange Studio on the east side of the interstate, as the rest of the city's stages and décor was still being erected and hammered into place. Our hay bales had just arrived and on this sunny day, we taped these four blissfully tricked out, somber dance songs, as Phosphorescent waited out some technical difficulties that were eventually, temporarily worked out. Singer Yukimi Nagano, Erik Bodin, Fredrik Kallgren Wallin and Hakan Wirenstrand seemed a bit weary this noontime, having driven (or better yet been driven) overnight over many miles, from a show in a city almost a day and a half away. When all of the synthesizers and gadgets were plugged in and primed, the music that the four made in our small room was eccentric and glittery. It comes off as bedroom dance music, the kind that plays wonderfully off the walls and the covers and is there almost solely for personal comfort and the mending of leaking eyes. Nagano is an intriguing and mysterious singer and writer, hinting at all kinds of tender dimensions and sleepy worries. She sounds like a wounded woman who would never come right out and be so forward with her ills, but would rather dress them in subtle garments and scarves, letting you find your way to them in whatever way you'd like. Her vocals are front and center in the band's mixes, never burying them as some unnecessary throw-in, but possibly the most important aspect to any of the songs. And yet, the arrangements and beats that Bodin, Wallin and Wirenstrand build and make shimmy and bleep behind these vocals are top-notch and every bit as vital. It's easy to be taken aback by the overall efforts and quality of everything that Little Dragon does on its sophomore album, "Machine Dreams," a record that still hasn't had a proper release in the U.S. It feels like it holds some kind of sea air veins, inspired melodies from Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, a pulse that begs for a wash of sunshine and overcast afternoons. It's ringed by a sense of joy that's still curtailed a bit by a tone that warns one never to warm too much to that fleeting piece of joy or love. Oh, those fickle flurries of love and joy. We should dance to them some though, shouldn't we?