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Album Review: Django Django - Marble Skies

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On a quest to rake through all the synthesiser presets of modern pop music, Django Django bring up a vast variety of sounds from contemporary chart-tronica, to the crude saw teeth of the 80s and the atmospheric pads of the digital 90s.

Photo Credit: Fiona Garden

The flow of Marble Skies is nothing short of magnificent; each track blends into the next as slickly as the most pristine of DJ sets, morphing effortlessly between songs. Yet behind this glossy sheen, the classic Django sound remains – a bouncy kind of desert pop that borrows much of its motifs from the early 60s, fused with a gracious nod to the Stone Roses. As a piece, it works better as a whole than as individual tracks, perhaps explaining why just the two singles were put out prior to the release. Zoom in too far and you might find the core song-writing lacking beyond the interesting instrumentation.

The opening, and title, track throws you straight into a brisk Krautrock-influenced train ride. Stabbing synths build up and beneath is a distinctly hollow electric guitar, there to remind us of the band’s origins in surf sounds. As the song progresses, a clavichord chimes in – a cornerstone of their debut album and vocoder lyrics rise above a building instrumental that drops away to an isolated picked bass interlude. Strong vocal harmonies provide a solid introduction to the record, which dissolves into a sound bed of rich swirling tones.

In comparison ‘Surface to Air’, which follows, is confusing and rather bland – guest singer, Self Esteem is on vocals here, leading one to question whether you’re actually even listening to a Django Django album. The energy fails to carry over, and it seems out of place in the track listing.

An album highlight is the single ‘Tic Tac Toe’, which starts exuberantly with the cascading delay-inflected chant of the title giving way to the driving smack of an up-tempo drumbeat. Again, this features rich vocal harmonies but this time their effect is less lush than triumphantly soaring above a frantic backdrop. Synths chirp away in the high ranges like light rain on metal and the track fades out into electronic noise and manipulated sampled vocals.

Marble Skies is fairly even in tone, yet it’s also accommodating for the listener who may tire of Django’s quirky, uppity sound. ‘Sundials’ is a calmer, more subdued breathing space that starts sparsely with only piano and voice. It stands out from the rest of the songs, not least for its 7/8 time signature, which is a refreshing detour from the dance-orientated moods heard previously. The wavering detuned piano tone left largely unembellished conveys a feeling of tranquillity. Towards the end of the track a clarinet creeps in, then it moves the fade with a warm build up of synths spilling into ‘Beam Me Up’.

Django Django impress on their latest effort, with highly detailed production and masterful transitions between songs. Their musical palette is wide and eclectic, providing much interest in an expansive range of sounds. However, the songs themselves lack the hooks and the catchy melodies necessary to stick in one’s head. As art it’s triumphant in its abstraction, but as pop music it needs an adrenaline injection. 

 

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