Django Django are back with a glittering new record, embracing their nostalgic sound whilst simultaneously leaning towards newer, pioneering styles. Joe Hughes explains why the London art-rockers’ intricately constructed record is worth a spin or ten.
Four albums in, and with over a decades’ worth of touring under their belts, you might have worried that the shine was starting to wear off on Django Django’s art-rock aesthetic. Never fear, because Glowing in the Dark is the group’s most pleasingly subversive album to date. It reclines in an easy-going (and dare I say, summery) sensibility, as handcrafted and propulsive melodies make for the most evocative listening experience.
Shimmering opener Spirals sets in motion an overwhelming aural assault. Its lyrical emphasis on human connection is mirrored in the real sense of reciprocity between bandmembers. Tommy Grace’s glossy synth ramps up the tension, only to be calmed by the steadying influence of Jimmy Dixon’s bass tone. Musical left-turns, which might otherwise be jarring, are to be expected on this album. As the track Right the Wrongs proves, the hooks are consistently good enough to stave off disorientation, if not always obvious on first listen. These diversions are neither pointless nor self-indulgent detours, but genuinely exciting, explorative digressions.
‘In a sense, the album, conceived before the pandemic, captures the spirit of a vibrant, hypothetical world tour.’
The middle part of the album makes use of eclectic international soundbites and traveling rhythms to draw in the influence of so-called ‘world’ music. Echoes of the Indian subcontinent feature on Night of the Buffalo and Got Me Worried is peppered with a pulsating samba shuffle. In a sense, the album, conceived before the pandemic, captures the spirit of the vibrant, hypothetical world tour that has been snatched from the band’s grasp. Frontman Vincent Neff’s Northern Irish roots play a large part in The World Will Turn, a touching folk-inspired track.
What is perhaps most impressive here is managing to collate such a breadth of influence into a coherent and enjoyable creative package. This is due in part to combining the writing process with performing in front of a live audience, being able to gauge what fitted, and what didn’t. This technique has certainly paid dividends in curating an album that hardly misses a beat. Amidst the lush soundscape, layered samples from such diverse sources as nature and science-fiction shift the album up a gear in terms of psychedelic tropes. Django Django have certainly courted psychedelia in their previous output, but this album embraces it unashamedly. Nowhere more so than on The Ark which has moments where the musicality, or lack thereof, becomes so arresting that the heavy synth takes on an almost oppressive persona.
It is a far cry from the breathy and breezy Waking Up, featuring Charlotte Gainsborough, as California-sound harmonies are treated with a dreamy indie wash. Headrush shrouds a pertinent political dissent underneath a dense cloud of sound and best showcases what has become the group’s artistic signature – the slow fade. It is striking that an album of sonic vignettes with such artistic depth is still snappy enough for listeners with the shortest of attention spans. Much of this album flirts with monotony, but then something entirely new refreshes the whole track. Whether it’s a new riff or a shift in tempo, the warm synth blurs everything together so effectively.
Asking for More is a neat and formulaic finale to an otherwise satisfyingly scattered collection. But its electronic restlessness means the group have truly saved the best until last. The synth is pushed to new levels of playfulness and a whimsical trailing ending tops off an ultimately fun album.
Written by: Joe Hughes
Edited by: Alex Duke