This post was written by Imogen Reed.
Formed at The Edinburgh College of Art, this four piece ensemble treads a very fine line between electro-pop and jangly guitar heaven and yet…and yet…somehow they pull it off and dagnabbit it works.
Their eponymously titled debut album Django Django released by Because Records on January 30 is an interestingly eclectic mix of harmonies, jaunty guitar rhythms and whooshing keyboards that in places sound bafflingly like Jean Michel Jarre (the opening track Introduction shows it’s almost like the 1970s are still alive and well and being beamed from a bedsit in Edinburgh), while sometimes managing to pull off the unenviable task of sounding more like Stereolab than well, Stereolab ever did (see the opening of the track “Waveform” for this).
Beginnings: A Cog in the Machine
Previous to the debut album, at the end of 2011 they released a two sprightly and stunning EPs Default and Waveform both for the same record label. Both EPs contained the eponymous songs and various remixes of them.
They were both critically acclaimed and full of bouncy electronica, resounding harmonies and jangly guitars. This was the start of something really big, a bet that any gambling man in need of poker help would put their last pound coin on! The artful video for the song was directed by Dan Brereton and takes more than a nod to the band’s art school roots in the way it’s produced – with multi-layered shots and stop-motion animation used to wonderful effect. It seems to fit in with the delightfully catchy nature of the song, and has a wonderfully retro feel to it. It’s slightly like watching an updated “made for schools and colleges” re-run of the 80s children’s television series Hartbeat.
Who are they?
They are drummer David Maclean, singer and guitarist Vincent Neff, bassist Jimmy Dixon and synth operator Tommy Grace. Maclean is the younger brother of The Beta Band’s John Maclean and it’s obvious in places that the older brother has had an influence. Their slightly echo-y vocal harmonies are reminiscent of the Betas, but that’s where it ends. They’ve ploughed their own furrow, and succeeded handsomely. You can see essences of many different bands and musicians throughout their work, but still interestingly they remain incredibly unique sounding which is no mean feat considering the dearth of same sounding bands that are out there at the moment.
Why should I listen to them?
A traditional four piece they may be, but their music is anything but traditional in style. Take the track “WOR” for example:
It starts with a Dick Dale style riff which echoes in and out through the rest of the track but gently transfers into a beautifully harmonised, repetitive verse/chorus which sticks in your mind instantly. You might think Beach Boys when you hear their harmonies. They sound like the bastard lovechildren of them and The Beta Band. One listen to the track Life’s A Beach more than confirms this, with its inspired take on their sound given their own unique twist.
In fact, thinking about it – if you are a fan of bands like Talk, Talk then you’ll probably go all blazes for these guys; their loving repetition is somehow what makes them more of a joy to listen to. It’s comforting in that you feel you know what you are getting, without being staid or overdone. It’s rare to hear an album and on first play be whistling or humming along, yet that’s exactly what you do with all these tracks, so lovingly pervasive are they.
But just when you think you know them…
They veer off in a different direction and confound you in the nicest possible way. The penultimate track on the album Skies Over Cairo is a beautifully different instrumental that kicks in with a Kraftwerk style opening note then blossoms into a Middle East influenced melody with a delightful tinge of psychedelia to it.
Art Meets Pop
Their live stage performances are just as pleasing as their music and owe much to their artistic backgrounds. The band often performs in home-made costumes and have sets that are created for them by an artist friend of theirs, Kim Coleman. As much as anything this just adds to the whole experience of listening to them. If you’re looking for something edgy, yet comforting in style, something that will appeal to many an eclectic taste – you might just find it in Django Django.