Photos: Si Morgan
Armed with a cafe, bar and live performance space, the newly opened Rough Trade shop in Bristol City Centre is the perfect place for music lovers. As I enter, I immediately feel the urge to start browsing. After all, everyone else is. Ten minutes later though and it’s time to get my wristband and find the stage. Next to the bar, big doors open to reveal a hidden room, dark and small, but clean and modern. It smells new, which makes sense as only a handful of acts have passed through here so far: With bands such as Idles, Elder Island and The Go! Team having already been and gone; I can tell I’m going to be coming here quite a lot. As I approach, a purple glow radiates from the stage, shining above the handful of people already inside. It fills up quickly before the lights dim and background music stops. A crescendo of applause fills the room as Django Django jump onto the stage and take their positions.
The choreographed insanity of ‘Default’ peaked my interest in the Edinburgh via London quartet back in 2012. Since then, the self-titled debut album and oft-slated follow up Born Under Saturn have delighted fans with a mixture of psychedelia, electronica and blues rock within an accessible pop format, conjuring both intrigue and a need to dance. For their third album, the pop dial has been turned up and psychedelia turned down. Marble Skies capitalises on their academic songwriting style and frontman Vincent Neff’s falsetto vocal style, while pushing a stronger dance vibe than previous releases
Through the applause, drummer David Maclean introduces a moderately paced beat with bassist Jimmy Dixon singing into a vocoder. They glide into title track ‘Marble Skies’, a staccato-synth-ridden tune that is an instant hit with the crowd who are already dancing. Next is ‘Tic Tac Toe’, one of their single releases. Neff’s vocal shouts are drowned in delay, which eventually give way to a marching snare and bouncy bass-line.
After thanking the crowd for coming, ‘First Light’, a synth-driven track from Born Under Saturn, shows off Neff & Dixon’s tuneful vocal harmonies, which dip in and out of unison. The second track from Marble Skies, ‘Surface To Air’, flirtatiously introduces a dancehall influence on drums and Neff’s keyboard riff. Like kids in a candy store, Django Django are able to pick out styles of music and craft something totally unique. The final outcome is always branded with their own signature sound, but this track proves they can carefully construct an accessible indie pop song from a wealth of background influences.
Maclean then plays a clave rhythm under a sweeping synth, which introduces ‘Waveforms’. During this song, Neff and Dixon jump on different drums and begin a tribal drum sequence, lasting several minutes and culminating in a euphoric dance off. Synth operator Tommy Grace looks like he is having the most fun, bouncing up and down to the rhythms, while simultaneously transitioning between keyboards and percussion.
Things slow down a bit while ‘In Your Beat’ begins, the second single release from Marble Skies. Drawn out vocal lines allow a playful synth to shift underneath which prompts a subtle singalong from the crowd. Next up, ‘Default’ is a sublime blend of blues guitar, driving bass-line and four-to-the-floor beats. Meanwhile, Grace’s unusual synth sounds move in and out of consciousness. The band, dripping from sweat, slow down once again to allow Neff to address the crowd. He briefly mentions the new album and how it’s not actually released yet. We are the few lucky ones who not only receive a copy with our ticket tonight, but also get the chance to have it signed by the band after they finish. Neff invites the crowd to step closer, as if it’s not already an intimate atmosphere. But we scuttle forward regardless. The audience is concocted of an equal blend of ages and genders, a testament to the band’s wide appeal. And of course, local legend Big Jeff is rocking out front and centre.
It turns out they have one song left, ‘Wor’ which begins with an Elvis Presley-style rockabilly guitar riff and shuffling drums. This song forces everyone to dance once again, before the band exit stage left to a huge applause.
Django Django now embark on a european tour and their eclectic mix of influences and successful recreations on stage are well worth the price of a ticket.