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THUMP Mix: Little Dragon

Ahead of their fifth album, 'Season High,' percussionist Erik Bodin's new mix spans J Dilla and an Eritrean organ-song."

David Garber

David Garber

Little Dragon have always made music that's felt unhinged. Head to the sidebar of their Wikipedia page and you'll see evidence of their multitude of interests—a crowded collection of sub-genres that armchair musicologists have attempted to use to classify the band. But no attempt at taxonomy really gets at how busy and electric the Gothenburg-based band's records have felt.

They're the type to dive quickly from icy downtempo, to sativa-soaked trip-hop, to experimental synth music, soul, and R&B. It's a fittingly eclectic range of interests for a band who grew up listening to everything from psychedelic jazz to the unabashedly weird charm of 90s hip-hop groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, and who've collaborated throughout their career with everyone from DJ Shadow to the Gorillaz and Flume along the way. We've always been able to hear their influences through their four albums to date, but never has the work of their heroes felt cheaply forced or fused. Little Dragon's sound has always been there own, and it's always worked, really well.

Since their debut self-titled 2007 album, the band has given us moody love songs, synth-heavy, well, love songs, and the type of high-octane tracks that feel nice when you're breaking the speed limit with the top down. While their style has always revolved around the irresistible, ever-changing pulse of Yukimi Nagano's singing, their varied, electronically-focused instrumentation, courtesy of Erik Bodin, Fredrik Källgren Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand, has further made it tricky to pin the band down. Perhaps it's a reason why they've continued to charm and surprise listeners from various crowds— ranging from Coachella festival tents to small clubs, and the rolodex of genre-spanning artists that continue to want to collaborate with them. They're not about reinvention per se, just because their music always feels like they're trying everything at once. The band's fifth album Season High, released this Friday on Because Music, is just the latest revival of that feeling.

Like the lion's share of the band's past work, the album's led by Nagano's  vocal stylings, set amidst a spread of electronics—in this case a little more revved up then albums past. The lyrics range from tales of the hectic days of a pop star (on "The Pop Life"), joint rolling ("High"), heartbreak, finding love at the rave, and the anxiety of living in our world in 2017. It's another spiraling portal into the band's crowded, ever-creative minds, and a vibe replicated on their installment in the THUMP Mix series. Mixed by the band's percussionist Erik Bodin, the set features everything from 90s hip-hop to sunny reggae, Jay Dilla, Eve, an Eritrean organ-song, and a few dashes of blissful house music. Check it out below along with a brief chat with Bodin.

THUMP: Where did you record this mix? How are we meant to enjoy this mix?

Little Dragon:  
It was done at home on GarageBand on Saturday evening. The kids were falling asleep and there was some popcorn left. I would recommend the listener to have an open mind and maybe do the dishes to the mix. But it's very open for different occasions

What's your favorite moment on this mix?
The start because then you know you still have an hour left to enjoy. All the songs are very valuable to me.

Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I don't think it is a fact truer than any religion but hey, what do I know? I'm just a simple drummer. I would think it is the color of the rainbow if you look at it through a pair of yellow ski glasses.

Was there any specific concept to the mix?
No. I just went with the flow like you do when you make a mixtape for a long car ride.

Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
Perhaps the Eritrean organ-song called "Let's Ride The Camel." It's from a cassette that I copied from the hotel receptionist at Hotel Khartoum in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. That tape was on repeat at the hotel when me and Håkan stayed there on our first African tour with a reggae band we were in. Unfortunately it didn't say what the artist or song was called so I had to come up with a name. Feisal was the name of the guy in the reception and the song title was just thrown in there as I was reminiscing on different events on that trip. Like for example when Håkan took a 10 meter long camel trip for the cost of 10 Nakfa.

It's been three years since the last LP. What has Little Dragon been up to?
Ice skating, making songs, mixing, laughing, and crying among many things. It takes a long time to recover from extensive touring also so there's been a lot of rest.

Who were you guys listening to in, or around, the studio when making the album?
Mostly to each other but at some time a lot of Cannonball Adderly, Gwen Guthrie, and Janet Jackson. Always Janet Jackson!

Was the studio set up or technique any different on Season High? Any cool gear—or people, pets, foods—you want to shout out?
Shout out to the moose standing imprisoned in our public free zoo in Gothenburg. Every time we see him it feels like he looks right through us and thinks "You idiots, you still don't get it."

Live performances have always been at the core of the band. Can you tell us what to expect on the upcoming tour?
Dance, echoes, delays, bass, rhythms, angelic voices and hopefully not too much feedback. 

TRACKLIST:

Jay Dee - "Without You"
Dbn Nyts - "Loud Silence"
Blahsay Blahsay - "Danger"
Rhythm on the Loose - "Break of Dawn"
Phat Kay / Jay Dee - "Don't Nobody"
Eve - "The Roots"
Joyce Simms - "Come Into My Life"
DJ Cleo - Kuyafiwa
George Duke - "North Beach"
Feisel - "Let's Ride the Camel"
DJ Cndo - "Sad Days"
Johnny Guitar Watson - "I'm Gonna Get U Baby"
Gregory Isaacs - "I Am Gregory"
TKZee - "Dlala Mapantsula
Telex - "Pakmovast"
Weather Report - "Directions"
Eddie Harris - "Hip Hoppin"
Roots Radios Meets Soul Syndicate - "Silver and Gold Dub"
Pepe Kale - "Roger Milla" (Stadium Mix)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Little Bliss House (Mysterydance Mix)
Telex - "Twist a St. Tropez"

Little Dragon is about to embark on a worldwide tour. Check out their dates and pick up their new album here