Little Dragon – hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden – are certainly a well-established name. Now on their fifth studio album, and featuring collaborations with the likes of Gorillaz and Flume in their back-catalogue, Dragon have been quietly working near the top of their game for some time now. Given their impressive resumé, and the fact that we live in an age where electronic genres are apparently solely reliant upon throwing nouns at a wall to see what sticks, you would be forgiven for expecting Season High to be an album in the more experimental style. This is not the case. Season High is not cutting edge, nor is it avant-garde, or any other synonym to that effect that could be thrown up by a reviewer’s perusal of a thesaurus. Instead of breaking new ground, Little Dragon have opted – quite refreshingly, actually – to simply revisit some old ground, and build a very tasteful metaphorical house on it.
Season High is, at its heart, a trip-hop album. This 1990s/early 2000s vibe is unmissable throughout, as if the ‘nostalgia’ setting on the synths got stuck on 11. By the minute mark of opening track ‘Celebrate’, feet are guaranteed to be tapping along, and this won’t let up for the duration. But then, to simply leave my description at ‘trip-hop’ and be done would be to do Little Dragon a serious injustice. Although never fully departing from that core focus, Dragon aren’t afraid to bounce around a selection of influences and sounds. ‘High’ is suitably trance-inflected, with airy vocals and spacey instrumentals; further on, melodic breaks in ‘Should I’ ring out in atmospheric, psytrance-esque layers. ‘Sweet’, meanwhile, hints at everything chip-tune could be but so often isn’t – the type of track I can imagine coming on at around 3am in an 8-bit rave.
By the minute mark of opening track ‘Celebrate’, feet are guaranteed to be tapping along
Little Dragon’s talent shines through in Season High, but not ostentatiously. Vocal work is strong throughout (particularly on ‘The Pop Life’), but never overstated; layering is carefully curated, and nowhere in the album does the mix risk becoming just ‘noise’. Whilst Season High may not be amongst the most ambitious electronic albums coming out at the moment, it shines through on being so very well put together. For an album as a whole, cohesive and strong production is just as valuable as the merits of the individual tracks, and whilst Season High is not stocked to the rafters with outstanding standalone tracks, as an album unit it is inarguably an achievement. A fulfilling listen from start to finish, Season High may not be setting any new trends, but it certainly succeeds in bringing together a refined palette of influences into a definitive and expertly constructed sound. While not an eye-opener, Season High is certainly an ear-pleaser.