Machine Dreams Review by Matthew Perpetua
Pitchfork Rating: 7.7 out of 10
Throughout much of the past decade, dance-oriented electronic-leaning pop music has erred on the side of stark utility, reducing beats and hooks down to an elemental thud and grind. What tends to get lost in this sparsely arranged music, particularly when we’re dealing with lesser artists and total hacks, is color and atmosphere. Without these things, songs can feel incredibly clinical and soulless— throbbing grooves almost completely devoid of context. Little Dragon, a quartet from Gothenburg, Sweden, are not entirely removed from the electro and modern R&B influences of their time, but their arrangements make a point of foregrounding ambiance and texture. Whereas too many post-Timbaland, post-electroclash records can seem like sentences stripped of adjectives and proper nouns, the tones on the group’s sophomore album Machine Dreams suggest complex emotions and vivid scenery with exquisite detail.
The emphasis on atmosphere is made clear from the very start of Machine Dreams, as album opener “A New” begins and ends with electronic drones, as if to bracket the song in ellipses like an unfinished thought. The subsequent song, “Looking Glass”, is firmer, more beat-driven, but as much as its groove is steady, as a whole it seems to wander. Motion and physicality is strongly implied by the rhythm, but the leisurely pace and subtly shifting keyboard tones indicate changes in setting, evoking a sense that we’re stumbling around lost in some strange, beautiful city. This sets the tone for the rest of the album, which goes off on the tangents of different rhythms into other textural zones, but maintains a feeling of searching around for something, whether it is a person, a destination, a state of mind, or the right words to express some ineffable thought.
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Little Dragon – Constant Surprises