Punk should be called Pink. All around this subterranean Soho space are pink lights and people drinking pink liquids. The venue suits Gothenburg four-piece Little Dragon, whose debut UK gig tonight is. They’re playing to an arrangement of couches, tables and bar flowers.
Front woman Yukimi Nagano is dressed like a demure insurance client manager, hair tied tidily back. Her delivery suggests a sales presentation is about to take place. Her voice is subtly varied, not a powerful thing but effective in the sparse arrangements.
Stringbean bass player Fredrik Kllgren Wallin’s hair skims the low ceiling as be plays complicated sequences of notes that occasionally jar. Synth tinkler Hkan Wirenstran is something of a greybeard, but it is his instrument that fills out the band’s middle section – there is no guitar, no brass, no strings. The drummer Erik Bodin is the fourth member.
Much of the set’s quickfire rhythm, married to chilled out melodies, suggests acid jazz never came and went. Neither chillout nor jazz, the set washes by like background music in search of a tune. Tracks like Test are essentially exercises in rhythm. It’s competent, momentarily curious and certainly different to anything else around at the moment but, like the band’s performance, it is music that never does enough to quite grab attention for itself.
But then comes the stripped-down finale, Twice, consisting of piano, vocals and little else. It’s every bit the oddity to the rest of the set that it is on record. But in its relative simplicity it is very, very good – a captivating mood-maker of a song that, thanks to one superbly effective hook, is by far the evening’s most memorable moment. And yet it’s something of a trojan horse. Listen just to this track and you’d expect a band in the introspective vein of Emily Haines. The rest of the set is almost a different band, and one that might well find itself caught between a rock and a hard place commercially.