Lucky Dragons - "Givers" (Dream Island Laughing Language)
On Dream Island Laughing Language, Lucky Dragons stitch together plinking guitars, tootling flutes, burbling beats, and the occasional wordless chant or naïve lyric (“oh I understand,” repeated for three minutes) into three-or-so minute bits. The seeming paradox of nature and folk music noises filtered through electronic loop-making devices, Lucky Dragons believe, provides a relief from the alienation and violence that mar our times. Lucky Dragons' series of free downloads Hawks and Sparrows samples a war protest, and the band's bio at the Whitney Biennial makes such political intent explicit. At performances like the one they gave as part of the Whitney exhibition, Lucky Dragons ask audiences to grab wires and hold hands and dance, and for each person at the show to whisper a pretty secret into her neighbor’s ears. It’s participatory, and it’s art! Peace!
Anyone who finds the description of this lite post-Animal Collective psych appealing or who believes she can regain her P.M.A. by participating in a large-scale drawing with several friends in the manner of Lucky Dragons’ side project Sumi Ink Club, ought to listen to Lucky Dragons. In truth, those who find Lucky Dragons’ political and artistic declarations infantile might find the album a fine soundtrack for checking the message board, staring at a mobile on the ceiling, or washing the dishes. The record tries so hard to be good at what it does: here’s a dance beat so you know they like hip-hop, there’s a beautiful harmony that sounds culled from British folk-rock, that noise is either a didgeridoo or a digital recreation thereof, so you know they are into, like, native peoples. But Lucky Dragons mastermind Luke Fishbeck edits these disparate bits together nicely and consistently. He succeeds in his aims to create a warm sound using primarily electronics trickery, however unoriginal his influences might be.
Lucky Dragons strive to be just so sweet and cute and inoffensive that they grab your heart on some primal-hippie level and let you transcend your hating. Their craft overwhelms their innocence, though; the album sounds too much like too many other smart things to attain the feral-child-of-the-00s spirit it wants. Unfortunately, as is the case with other whatever art-world anointed bands like Tracy and the Plastics, listeners to the CD miss out on the ecstatic communal freak-outs and hear only what’s on record. Here, one gets twee, inane chirps and whirs and leaf-rustles and thinks not, this is performance art but, this is fine, this is chill - so chill that it functions as easy listening for fans of such music as “punk,” which also aspires to unite the disenfranchised, or “good ambient music,” which lacks the ancillary pretensions to land itself in a museum.