Ritual Union

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Ritual Union
Little Dragon - Ritual Union album cover.jpg
Studio album by Little Dragon
Released 21 July 2011 (2011-07-21)
Recorded 2007–11
Length 43:24
Label Peacefrog
Producer Little Dragon
Little Dragon chronology
Machine Dreams
(2009)Machine Dreams2009
Ritual Union
Nabuma Rubberband
(2014)Nabuma Rubberband2014
Singles from Ritual Union
  1. "Nightlight"
    Released: 12 April 2011
  2. "Ritual Union"
    Released: 20 June 2011
  3. "Precious"
    Released: 2011
  4. "Shuffle a Dream"
    Released: 2011

Ritual Union is the third studio album by Swedish electronic band Little Dragon. It was released on 25 July 2011 by Peacefrog Records. The album debuted at number twenty-two on the UK Albums Chart and number seventy-eight on the US Billboard 200, their highest-charting album to date. The album's second single, "Ritual Union", reached number seventy-six on the UK Singles Chart. Upon its release, Ritual Union received generally positive reviews from music critics. The song "Shuffle a Dream" was featured in the fifth season premiere episode of Gossip Girl, "Yes, Then Zero", originally aired 26 September 2011.[1] The song "Nightlight" was featured in the game FIFA 12. "Crystalfilm" was featured in the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows versions of Grand Theft Auto V.[2]

Background and release[edit]

The album cover consists of a montage of newly married couples. In an interview with website BrightestYoungThings, lead singer Yukimi Nagano said, "It's a bunch of pics of our parents and relatives so there's that obvious connection [the overt idea of marriage]. But it's basically one perspective on the whole 'Ritual Union' theme which is pretty ambiguous. It can represent a band, a marriage, humanity, the universe... what ever you feel connected to."[3] Speaking to Canadian music magazine Exclaim!, drummer Erik Bodin elaborated on the album cover's concept:

We thought that we would break out from the paint world [of previous album covers] into the photographic world [...] Everything was done musically and we'd mastered mostly everything and we needed a cover ASAP. And we came up with the idea, why don't we just put wedding pictures of our parents and at first we thought that maybe that's just a little too obvious. But then, the way it looked, we started loving it, because it has this sort of... I don't know wedding pictures, they capture that weird expectation in life that you've made the right move, this is the beginning of something new. Sadly, most of those people are divorced. It's one of the many references to the ritual union. I think the wedding and those things are one thing of the ritual unions, but also I think we are also referring to music as a ritual union. Live performance is a ritual union, one of the few that still exists in the Western world. And yeah, we like it.[4]

"Nightlight" was released on 25 March 2011 as a streaming single, accompanying a press release. "Ritual Union" was played on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon days previous to this, while "Little Man" and "Summertearz" were previewed throughout Little Dragon's 2010 and 2011 touring. An animated video was released for "When I Go Out". Little Dragon posted on their official Twitter page, "Our -When I Go Out video is By Italian artist Emanuel Kabu! Love all his work! psychedelic breeze...surreal iz the new normal!"[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 78/100[6]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[7]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[8]
Entertainment Weekly B+[9]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[10]
The Independent 4/5 stars[11]
NME 7/10[12]
Pitchfork Media 6.7/10[13]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[14]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[15]
Spin 7/10[16]

Ritual Union received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 78, based on 31 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[6] The Daily Telegraph's Andrew Perry gave the album five out of five stars and described it as a "spellbinding collection of digital exotica". He continued, "Though consistently ground-breaking and lyrically challenging, Ritual Union never feels like hard work."[8] Slant Magazine's Kevin Liedel gave the album four out of five stars, noting that the band "often places rhythm and texture at the forefront of their songs, but as on Machine Dreams, gifted lead singer Yukimi Nagano continues to be the greatest facet of the band's style-spanning sound—a husky, beguiling force that seamlessly swaps power and sexuality for aloofness and anguish from track to track."[15] Rolling Stone's Will Hermes stated that the album "hits a sweet spot between the futuristic soul of their debut and the synth pop of 2009's Machine Dreams."[14] Joe Lynch of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Straddling the line between slinky funk and outsider electronica, [Ritual Union] is full of pheromone-drenched surprises: It's ambient R&B for restless nights."[9] Andy Kellman of Allmusic gave Ritual Union four out of five stars and opined that it "represents a fusion and refinement of the group's first two albums", which is "not to say that Ritual Union is short on new developments. The group puts some twists on its sound, and Yukimi Nagano's lyrical thorns, typically concealed by her subtle approach [...] are sharper than ever."[7]

The Guardian critic Maddy Costa commented that Nagano's "impassioned vocals suffuse each song with emotion [...] And as the album withdraws from the dancefloor to the lonelier darkness of 'Summertearz' and 'Seconds', Nagano lures you to follow."[10] Reef Younis of Clash scored the album eight out of ten and wrote, "Straightaway Yukimi Nagano's husky-yet-girlish vocal weaves amidst the shape-shifting backdrops of minimal funk, dreamy pop and electro soul, and you're mesmerised. It's dark and downbeat, smoky and soulful".[17] The Independent's Andy Gill complimented Nagano's "bewitching" vocals and claimed she is "surely destined to become one of the voices of the year, while her accomplices' subtle confections of minimal electro throbs and stripped-back beats has an alluring simplicity that's like a refreshing, palate-cleansing sorbet."[11] Marc Hogan of Spin called the album "another slab of great Scandinavian pop" and expressed that it "deepens the group's down-tempo mix of icy techno and smoldering R&B. If Ritual Union does moody ambiguity better than meaningful hooks [...], well, Nagano's smoky, pillow-soft purr speaks volumes."[16] In a review for the NME, Dan Martin viewed it as "a conflicted, confusing album that's as infuriating as it is intermittently enchanting", adding that "on this lovely little patchwork pop record, there's enough going on to make you actually quite scared of what they'd come up with if they had a budget."[12] Matthew Perpetua of Pitchfork Media felt that "[t]he problem with Ritual Union is that even though every song on the album is built on the foundation of some very good musical ideas and at least one engaging hook, the material nevertheless seems rather under-written [...] This doesn't diminish the charm of the music, per se, but it can be very frustrating to hear songs right on the precipice of greatness."[13]


Clash placed Ritual Union at number thirty-one on its list of The Top 40 Albums of 2011, stating the album is "just wonderfully unassuming. No signature statements; no desperation to blow you away in the opening few tracks, just an album that revelled in clean, crisp production, skittering percussion and an impressive BPM heartbeat."[18] Rolling Stone ranked the album at number forty-one on its list of the 50 Best Albums of 2011 and wrote, "With their third album, the Gothenburg quintet spiked their synth-happy pop with freaky soul—injecting new wave, dubstep, house and the niftiest Prince impersonation ever to drift across the Atlantic."[19]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Little Dragon.

No. Title Length
1. "Ritual Union" 3:30
2. "Little Man" 2:41
3. "Brush the Heat" 4:10
4. "Shuffle a Dream" 2:58
5. "Please Turn" 3:34
6. "Crystalfilm" 4:49
7. "Precious" 3:51
8. "Nightlight" 3:25
9. "Summertearz" 3:50
10. "When I Go Out" 5:59
11. "Seconds" 4:30


Chart (2011) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[20] 91
Swedish Albums Chart[21] 47
UK Albums Chart[22] 22
US Billboard 200[23] 78
US Dance/Electronic Albums[23] 4
US Independent Albums[23] 12

Release history[edit]

Country Date Label
Netherlands[24] 21 July 2011 Century Media Records
Germany[25] 22 July 2011 Peacefrog Records
United Kingdom[27] 25 July 2011
United States[28] 26 July 2011
Sweden[29] 27 July 2011
Australia[30] 29 July 2011
France[31] 5 September 2011 EMI


  1. ^ "Gossip Girl Music | Season 5 – Episode 1". The CW. Retrieved 6 October 2011. 
  2. ^ http://pitchfork.com/news/57496-grand-theft-auto-v-reveals-expanded-radio-station-tracklists-for-game-relaunch/
  3. ^ S, Robb (27 October 2011). "BYT INTERVIEWS: Little Dragon". BrightestYoungThings. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  4. ^ Cowie, Del F. (August 2011). "Little Dragon". Exclaim!. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "Our -When I Go Out video i ..." Twitter. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Ritual Union – Little Dragon". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "Ritual Union – Little Dragon". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Perry, Andrew (21 July 2011). "Little Dragon: Ritual Union, CD review". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "Albums: July 29, 2011". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Costa, Maddy (14 July 2011). "Little Dragon: Ritual Union – review". The Guardian. guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Gill, Andy (22 July 2011). "Album: Little Dragon, Ritual Union (Peace Frog)". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Martin, Dan (12 July 2011). "Album Review: Little Dragon – 'Ritual Union'". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Perpetua, Matthew (26 July 2011). "Little Dragon: Ritual Union". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Hermes, Will (26 July 2011). "Ritual Union". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  15. ^ a b Liedel, Kevin (21 July 2011). "Little Dragon: Ritual Union". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Hogan, Marc. "Little Dragon, 'Ritual Union' (EMI)". Spin. Spin Media LLC. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  17. ^ Younis, Reef (25 July 2011). "Little Dragon – 'Ritual Union'". Clash. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  18. ^ "The Top 40 Albums Of 2011: 40 – 31". Clash. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  19. ^ "50 Best Albums of 2011: Little Dragon, 'Ritual Union'". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  20. ^ "Chartifacts – Week Commencing: 8th August 2011". Australian Recording Industry Association. 8 August 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "Little Dragon – Ritual Union". Swedish Recording Industry Association. Hung Medien. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Little Dragon – Ritual Union". Official Charts Company. Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 31 July 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  23. ^ a b c "Ritual Union – Little Dragon". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Ritual Union – Little Dragon" (in Dutch). Free Record Shop. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  25. ^ "Ritual Union: Little Dragon" (in German). Amazon.de. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  26. ^ "Little Dragon – Ritual Union". Tower Records Ireland. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  27. ^ "Little Dragon: Ritual Union". HMV. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  28. ^ "Ritual Union: Little Dragon". Amazon.com. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  29. ^ "Ritual Union – Little Dragon" (in Swedish). CDON.se. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  30. ^ "Ritual Union – Little Dragon". JB Hi-Fi. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  31. ^ "Ritual Union: Little Dragon" (in French). Amazon.fr. Retrieved 13 August 2011.