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little dragon return with a spectacular second album offering, a pulsating electro pop epic that prince would be proud of (only fronted by a beautiful swedish lady with a sultry voice). a bold and surprising side / two step onwards from their self titled debut, released two years ago to great acclaim especially among specialist circles. 'machine dreams', with its nagging hooks and gloriously infectious tunes, should finally see the band break out into the mainstream. recorded in their home city of gothenburg, 'machine dreams' is a gigantic leap on from previous material but still maintains a distinct sound that can only be little dragon. be it yukimi's warmly inviting vocals, erik's dextrous drumming, the vast array of synths and bleeps created by hakan or frederik's bubbling bass lines, together they don't sound like anything else around right now. the move towards a more electronic sound was a conscious one, as yukimi explains; "the title machine dreams seems obvious. these days, humans seem more and more like machines, and as technology evolves, machines feel more human and it becomes fuzzy and beautiful and science fiction-ish. we feel dependent on our machines to create and live, and their sounds reflect us". album opener 'a new' breaks us in gently with a single whirring note on the synthesiser, an almost alien sound that gradually morphs into a slow, thumping bassline. yukimi's vocals flow alongside hakan's assortment of sound effects interspersed with militaristic drums breaks. a magical opener that sets the scene and seems to sink into itself, taking us with it, until the pace is swiftly ratcheted skywards with 'looking glass', the massive snare, crisp driving beat and experimental synths revealing the band's current penchant for the 80's. this influence continues apace into stand out track 'my step'. utilising a solid drumbeat that nestles next to jagged and playful synthlines, the track breaks down into motorik propulsion with a scuzzy techno bassline that yukimi works with ease. upcoming single 'feather' finds yukimi's voice at its most detached and blaze, seemingly nonchalant yet magnificently seductive. backed by hakan's keyboard atmospherics, the song creates a soundscape reminiscent of tears for fears' more reflective moods. gradually layering more vocals, synths, echoes and reverb, it builds to a quietly psychedelic, dreamy cosmic swirl. 'runabout' brings forth a mini airto style percussive breakdown at the tail end of yet another little dragon pop gem. 'swimming' bursts forth into vision with stabbing keys and reflective bass alongside yet another wonderful vocal performance from yukimi who sings of young love "and now so many years have past, my memories as clear as glass". the song is over as quickly as it started, flowing into the next miniature masterpiece in the form of 'blinking pigs'. the album closes with the stunning track 'fortune', which has already caught the attention of none other than dj shadow. it's no wonder really, as the textured melodies blend with the drifting percussion, creating a blissful sonic mood. with a smattering of drums and bass and the magic of yukimi's voice and hakan's electronic dynamics floating on top, it's the perfect track to end this fascinating journey through little dragon's brave new world. with disparate influences from depeche mode to prince, lcd soundsystem to james holden, dancehall to r&b, jazz and soul, little dragon take their place among artists who straddle many genres, yet somehow create their own and in doing so create 'sounds that make time stop' (yukimi). futuristic yet somehow retro, 'machine dreams' sees little dragon achieve something timeless; that elusive pop classic.
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