Django Django

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Since their auspicious Mercury Prize-nominated debut in 2012, Django Django have remained a consistent anomaly, holding true to their status as cultish art-rock mavericks while staying just accessible enough to engage the pop crowd. Known for their peculiar amalgam of rich harmonies, surf guitar, psych flair, and strange dance grooves born out of deep crate-digging knowledge, the U.K. quartet have managed to keep audiences both guessing and grooving at major festivals while self-producing inventive albums that sound like no one else. After a trio of inventive albums in the 2010s, they kicked off their second decade with 2021′s Glowing in the Dark.
Although they formed in Dalston, London at the end of 2008, Django Django’s bandmembers had met earlier in the decade at the Edinburgh College of Art. Vocalist and guitarist Vinny Neff and drummer/producer Dave Maclean played their first impromptu East London live dates with Duncan Marquiss of Glasgow’s the Phantom Band on bass. Jimmy Dixon soon stepped in to replace him, however, and graphic designer Tommy Grace joined on keyboards to complete their core lineup. By the time of the release of the July 2009 debut 7″ “Storm,” critics had already latched onto their vocal and experimental similarity to cult folktronica pioneers the Beta Band. In fact, drummer Maclean was the younger brother of Beta Band and Aliens keyboard player John Maclean — a link that both raised their profile and justified the comparisons.
Django Django similarly betrayed a knowledge and love of electronic music and Joe Meek’s production techniques, alongside an ability to throw together seemingly disparate styles. Filled with sirens, bells, and surf guitar, their second single — April 2010′s “Wor” — sounded like the Ventures jamming with Hot Chip. While friend and Glaswegian video artist Cara Tolmie provided vocals and cello on the equally playful flip, “Skies Over Cairo,” Grace designed the minimalist artwork that housed this inventive material. The group’s self-titled debut arrived in 2012 and was a Mercury Prize nominee. In early 2014, Django Django were tagged to curate a compilation album for the popular British series Late Night Tales, for which they also recorded a cover version of the Monkees’ “Porpoise Song.”
While the group’s debut was a home-recorded affair, their heightened profile allowed them a greater studio budget, which they vigorously applied to their sophomore album. Released in May 2015, Born Under Saturn could hardly be called a slick pop record. If anything, Django Django’s eccentricities were given even sharper focus by new creative tools and opportunities, and while it didn’t quite live up to the critical success of its predecessor, it bested it on the chart. After tours of Europe and North America, the band were back in the studio for album number three. Viewed as something of a back-to-basics approach, 2018′s Marble Skies was produced once again by Maclean and featured guest appearances from Metronomy’s Ann Prior and Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor. Despite the thoughtful nature of its lyrics, 2021′s Glowing in the Dark offered something of a lightness in its shimmering synth lines and bubbling percussion. Django Django’s mix of electronics, guitars, and rich harmonies was further aided by guest spots from singer Charlotte Gainsbourg and Syd Arthur violinist Raven Bush. ~ James Wilkinson