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Little Dragon – ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ album review

After nearly two decades of groundwork, the sensual Swedes take flight in breathtaking style

It’s a funny phrase, ‘effortlessly cool’. Think of any awe-inspiring artist, from Beyoncé to The Knife, and you’ll find that they’ve put a lifetime of work into looking, sounding and acting on point. No matter what the ’90s might have taught you, no one ever became cool by being a slacker.

Swedish four-piece Little Dragon are a prime example. For almost two decades, since vocalist Yukumi Nagano met her future bandmates at high school in Gothenburg, they’ve been working hard on their sensuous mixture of trip hop, downbeat electronica and R&B. They’ve collaborated with everyone from Damon Albarn and Big Boi to SBTRKT and DJ Shadow. They’ve released three albums that have made them, little by little, a force to be reckoned with. And now, with album number four, their time might have come at last.

‘Nabuma Rubberband’ is a consummate masterpiece: dramatic, relentlessly innovative, brilliantly understated, impeccably produced and often head-spinningly sexy. Huge, squelchy synth riffs and galloping crashes on ‘Klapp Klapp’ give way to the skipping percussion and ice-cool vocals of ‘Underbart’. The seductive ‘Only One’ goes deeper and deeper, before turning into a full-on techno track and dissolving into static. Album closer ‘Let Go’, meanwhile, is a proper banger-in-disguise, the sort that’d be a huge international hit if it wasn’t so intelligently produced. Effortlessly cool? No: this is what it sounds like when 18 years of hard work pay off spectacularly.

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