While their debut album was recorded in a very basic makeshift studio (and received a Mercury nomination), album number two was made in the no expense spared uber studio of Angelic. The band have subsequently said it wasn’t quite right for them. For sure Born Under Saturn was slightly more polished and structured, but it still felt like a DIY work. A work that only they could have produced, such are their idiosyncrasies, which includes a rudimentary proficiency at playing, their collaborative approach to the whole band project, their distinctive harmonies, and David McLean’s self-taught production methods and ideas. Marble Skies is a further compromise solution of sorts, a work that was made in their own time, in their own place, and is a continuation of their underlying escapist, and kaleidoscopic, genre-defying musicality, that at base is pop inspired. It was also inspired by the sight of a night sky with an impending storm brewing while the band were at Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, hence the title.
An alarm call whirring into action leads into the fizzing new wave and disco fusion of the title track. And we’re away in typical Django Django fashion, helped along by space effects, vocoder, harmonies, simple synth motif and jangly guitar. It’s a consistent aspect of their sound, these danceable grooves. The 80s, as well as a touch of more modern R’n’B, also plays a part; in the stabbing key-led melody of ‘Surface to Air’, with Rebecca Taylor (aka Self Esteem, singer with Slow Club) providing vocals in a more downbeat Bananarama manner.
Then there’s their on-going penchant for psych-garage-rock in a 60s vein, such as on the frenzied ‘Tic Tac Toe’, where the ghost of Sky Saxon rears its head, while ‘Further’ is another, exploration into 60s garage, aided by hints of glam guitar and beats, Telstar sounds, and rockabilly. A Jan Hammer piano sample forms the basis for the Zombies-esque ‘Sundials’, minor reverb and delay effects adding to the underlying 60s innocence.
Django Django are intelligent men. However, when it comes to music they take their inspiration from the largely politics-free and pre-68 era of pop. They like their music to be indulgent and escapist, feeling that there is no need to try and not politicise their work, instead wholeheartedly opting for a fun-filled roller-coaster of psychedelic-pop frills and spills. They make a minor concession with ‘Beam Me Up’, a nod to the tumultuous politics of Trump, wrapped up in a semi-dark musicality. Which itself neatly segues into ‘In Your Beat’, a glorious fusion of harmonies and psychedelia, a strong melody, and early house-style beats. Album highlight ‘Real Gone’ takes it further into the dance-floor, welding motorik Kraftwerk with added acid-house squelch, one of the only times the band allow a song to grow and expand before the layered vocals come in halfway through.
There’s nothing earth shatteringly different about this third album. But Django Django do superbly what they have done over their short career thus far, their distinctively organic development continuing to mushroom further into the realms of artful, and euphorically escapist pop.