Album Reviews

Django Django – Off Planet

(Because) UK release date: 16 June 2023

A sprawling fifth album of four instalments – or ‘planets’ – finds collaboration space for Self Esteem, Yuuko, Jack Peñate, Patience and Stealing Sheep

Django Django - Off Planet There’s a good chance that, if you’re already a Django Django fan, you may have heard most of Off Planet already. At the start of the year the Scottish quartet revealed that their fifth album was to be released in four separate instalments, with each album representing a ‘planet’ – and then, the entire 21 track record would be released in full.

It’s quite a canny marketing strategy, especially in the age of streaming and limited attention spans. There’s a theme which links each part – each ‘planet’ has a few guest names, an instrumental track, and a few songs just by the band – but as is usually the case with Django Django, there’s lots of experimentation and jumping from genre to genre.

One early highlight of Off Planet is Complete Me, featuring Rebecca Taylor of Self Esteem on guest vocals. Taylor, a long-term collaborator of the band, who appeared on one of their best moments Surface To Air, is the perfect foil for David Maclean’s soundscape. There’s ’90s synths, clattering percussion and, best of all, some blissful piano beamed in direct from an old Chicago House classic. It’s all the more impressive given that it was written and recorded remotely over lockdown.

The collaborations are the high points of Off Planet – Don’t Touch That Dial is a frantic slice of disco featuring a hypnotic vocal from Japanese rapper Yuuko, who raps in her native language, until she reaches the line “when I hear a song that makes me smile, don’t touch that dial”. Stealing Sheep (whose sound seems tailor made to work with Django Django) pop up on Dead Machine, while Jack Peñate lends his voice to the bass heavy, glitchy No Time.

The entire project seems a bit mammoth at first (touching 90 minutes and at 21 tracks) so the instrumentals scattered amongst the album feel like a decent palate cleaner. The Oh Zone is very effective in that respect – a twinkly, ambient little number lasting just two minutes, while Squid Inc and Osaka both seem to be languid and relaxing while maintaining a skittish energy bubbling underneath.

One of the impressive things about Off Planet is how comfortable the band sound, no matter what style the song is. They can leap from the Gorillaz-style rap/funk of Hands High, before effortlessly moving into ethereal synth-pop with the welcome return of Veronica Falls singer Roxanne Clifford (now recording under the name of Patience). There’s also a bit of a throwback to the band’s early material on tracks like Golden Cross and Come Down.

There’s a lot to take in across the four parts of Off Planet, and the casual listener may find it more palatable to listen to each section separately, as originally intended. At times, it seems to make more sense as a collection of EPs, as it sometimes doesn’t hang together as an album as coherently as it may do. Yet there’s still much to enjoy on this mammoth collection, and on tracks like Don’t Touch That Dial and Complete Me, Django Django have produced some of their best work to date.

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