It’s been more than three years since Scottish group Django Django first stepped out into the intersection of the experimental rock / electronic pop world with their self-titled LP. They gave themselves some big shoes to fill, starting from a place already pretty close to the top when it comes to a genre such as theirs. Finally, after all this time,
Django Django has returned with their second album, Born Under Saturn, and it does not disappoint. The same essential elements seem to be there - the vaguely surf rock undertones with the Beach Boys vocals layered through artsy rhythms and electronic beats. Born Under Saturn seems to allow itself for more transformation, morphing between songs though they ride on the same formula. Most importantly, there’s an unspoken element of unease that grows deeper as the album goes on, subtly reshaping how the album is perceived.
The album could be separated into three, maybe four parts, each defined by the level of anxiety that penetrates it. The first part of the album seems almost untouched with the first listen. Here we have a packaged embodiment of all the aforementioned elements of Django Django, though they separate themselves between songs. The opening track, “Giant,” throws a bit of a wildcard in the mix with its heightened pitch, but introduces you to the spaciness and unified vocal transcendence of the overall album. While each track seems to experiment a bit with overall tone (the second track, “Shake and Tremble,” is cool California beach rock, the third track, “Found You,” has a funkiness to it) these two facets remain the same.
These variations take focus for the early portion of the album, but by the middle, it's experimental pop that’s on display all around. This is where the tension builds. For the most part, the music takes on a leaner form here. It’s simpler - maybe even a little too simple - with a cut and straightforward pop appeal to “First Light,” “Pause Repeat,” and “Reflections” all back to back. These all have a sense of prettiness, spaciness, and upbeatness to them, but something about it seems just a bit off.
It isn’t until “Shot Down” that this becomes more apparent. The song is dark and clamorous, dealing with whatever angst that existed in the previous tracks in a far more obvious way. This depressiveness holds through the next track, but, as the name of the track would suggest, seems to lift in “Beginning to Fade,” a more acoustically based song. From then on, the rest of the album has a lighter ease. There’s the same mix of features that Django Django utilizes, but it’s never too heavy. They’re easy listens, never necessitating too much thought.
The same could really be said of the album as a whole - if you don’t think about it too much, the anxiety isn’t there. It’s thoroughly detailed and layered, both instrumentally and in the Beach Boy vocal stylings. However, if you have your ear out for it, the anxiety creeps in in an undefinable way. It makes you question if it was there in the previous album, if it’s been there the whole time, or if it’s really there at all.