Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: Because
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Should it really come as a surprise that a band whose name is the same thing twice may have a dual identity? It’s a multifaceted personality a lot of bands with synths have displayed before: on the one hand, they’re intellectuals keen on dissecting life and sharing their observations over a predominantly electronic backdrop, and, on the other, they just want to get up and dance. This is as true on their new release Born Under Saturn as it was on their debut. Django Django is simultaneously more thought-provoking and more catchy than a lot of popular EDM or club music, the first feat an easy one and the second much more of a melodic coup.
Django Django play hard to get. Guitarist/vocalist Vinnie Neff's coolness in his vocals is part of the appeal — it demands not getting too excited for the next song, but of course, when we're not supposed to do something, that makes us want to do it even more. His aloof voice is fitting considering the band's relaxed writing style; when they wrote their 2012 self-titled debut album, drummer and producer David Maclean would work on their music in his bedroom wearing pyjamas.Whether the four musicians wrote Born Under Saturn in onesies or daytime attire, Neff's vocals have largely stayed the same.
When they arrived in 2012, U.K. indie quartet Django Django offered a sound like no other, blending single-note surf/Western guitar lines with vaguely psychedelic-electro undercurrents and big, clamoring rhythmic stacks that fell somewhere between Devo and drum corps. On top of it all were their strict, vibrato-less vocals, often sung in unison before breaking apart into close, sophisticated harmonies.
Sixteen years! Sixteen years we waited for that eclipse, and what did we get? Sure, it was an excuse to get out of work and stare at the clouds for a bit, but for all that hype of an awe-inspiring natural phenomena – all that talk of inspiring the next generation of scientists – when all you can see outside is grey skies, you can’t help feeling just a little bit miffed. Enter Django Django. Since their self-titled debut, we’ve had to wait a burning three years for their return.
If Django Django’s second album doesn’t quite have the same effect as their debut, that’s no reflection on its quality, just a recognition that such a distinctive sound – mixing surf guitars, spartan percussion, dance-music electronics and dynamics, and the vibrato-less harmonies of high psychedelia – isn’t such a surprise second time around. Still, Born Under Saturn shows no diminution in the songwriting: the single First Light is a startling, eerie, beautiful song that itches away at you, and might be the best thing they’ve yet done. Django Django sound like a musical representation of what filmmakers call “the magic hour”, when the light is suffused with gold, and lyric after lyric here refers to sun, sky or light: High Moon, Vibrations, Shake and Tremble, First Light and Giant all bring in that sense of wonder or dread at what hangs above.
Hard to believe it's already been three years since London-based psych band Django Django released their self-titled debut. Their eclectic mixture of sun-drenched sonic bursts, primal beats, and spacey melodies still stands out as a uniquely original effort. Second albums are notoriously difficult to pull off, since they cannot avoid comparisons to their predecessors, and lightning rarely strikes twice.
The remarkable upward trajectory of Django Django following the release of the quartet’s self-titled debut album took many by surprise – even the band themselves. After meeting at Edinburgh College of Art in 2009, David Maclean (drummer and producer), Vincent Neff (singer and guitarist), Jimmy Dixon (bassist), and Tommy Grace (synths) spent three years creating the record largely in Maclean’s bedroom/studio. It was a process that clearly worked wonders, as when the album was released at the beginning of 2012 it was met with widespread critical acclaim.
Look, I know you weren’t expecting me to say this, but the release of a second album from Django Django heralds a moment of worldwide cultural existential crisis. Three years is no time at all – or at least it’s 0.00000002170767% of the time the universe has existed, to be precise. In that time, we’ve had six Marvel movies, London has become affordable only to those of us who have made several billion pounds from music blogging, Ed Miliband has become cool, Ireland got better at cricket than England and this achingly cool, innovative, Scottish indie four-piece turned into dadrock.
In astrology, Saturn is associated with death, discipline and facing down your fears. As planets go it’s kind of a buzzkill, but here’s the thing: if you do right by Saturn, it’ll do right by you. The trick is to know your strengths and play to them.Such is the star-crossed premise for ‘Born Under Saturn’, Django Django’s follow-up to their Mercury-nominated debut of 2012.
First Light, the aptly named first of the second album by the east London-based, mostly Scottish foursome, promised so much back in January: a bucolic disco rewrite of New Order, pointing towards nimbly expanded horizons for the former bedroom psychedelicists. But while Born Under Saturn certainly up-scales Django Django’s ambitions, some of their eclectic grooves don’t bowl you over as comprehensively as those on their Mercury-nominated debut did. All the new house pianos and nods to Kraftwerk - both appear on one track, Reflections – suggest a familiarity with dancefloors past, and songs such as Beginning to Fade maintain Django Django’s easy pop touch.
On their Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled 2012 LP, Django Django revived a very specific "sound of the future", defined around 2000 by a cluster of "forward-thinking" UK rock bands like Super Furry Animals, Clinic, Simian, Badly Drawn Boy, and the Beta Band, and ushered it into the present day. Django Django's hodgepodge approach and affectless harmonizing made the Beta Band reference, in particular, hard to avoid (it probably didn't hurt that drummer/producer David Maclean’s brother used to be in Beta Band). But as a jumping-off point, these influences are limited, and the possibilities of the sound taper off the second you start to repeat yourself or lose your sense of irreverence.
The popularity of rock and its generations-old traditions never seems to wane in the United Kingdom. Just beyond the garage rock and post-punk inflected mainstream of bands like Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian sits the UK’s vast, critically-approved art rock scene, from the experimental dance-rock excursions of Foals and Everything Everything to the more tempered and theatrical approach of bands like Alt-J and Metronomy. Among this disparate crowd is Django Django, masters of synth-pop, electro, and indie rock methodology, sporting their own distinct brand of vocal harmonies, analog synthesizer sounds, and exotic drum patterns that make them stick out among a burgeoning collective.
Nearly every song on Django Django’s sophomore release, Born Under Saturn, has a moment that will turn heads, some in ways the band probably didn’t intend. There’s a few missed chances here, ideas that are abandoned just when they get interesting. Often, these moments come towards the end of tracks. Take album opener “Giant,”, which starts with a brief, confident piano riff that forms the base of the song.
By their debut’s sing-and-jump-along standards, Born Under Saturn is a more reserved affair - though that’s not to say it’s that tired cliché of a grower, it’s just not particularly rhapsodic. Nor is it particularly brilliant. Instead what we have in Django Django’s second LP is something more in the vein of Real Estate’s Atlas or Metronomy’s Love Letters, an understatedly good album that while eschewing bombast doesn’t demand careful attention to be appreciated.
Django Django's 2012 self-titled debut paired retro 60s psych pop with contemporary electronic touches in unexpected, effective ways. Those two influences meet again on the Scottish band's sophomore album, but this time they're not blended quite as smoothly, which makes for an uneven listen. It's understandable that the group wants to explore the limits of their opposing tendencies, but in the process they've lost some of what got them so much attention early in their career.
opinion by BRENDAN FRANK An ocean divided the critical consensus to Django Django’s self-titled debut. British publications drooled, while their North American counterparts shrugged a collective shoulder. That kind of hometown support is valuable. But it can also suggest a lack of cultural currency outside of native borders.