For Fans Of: Daft Punk, MGMT, Ratatat
Stand-Out Tracks: “DVNO,” “D.A.N.C.E.”
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to kick off our Monday music reviews with something you can dance to: French duo Justice. Their album † is a mix between electro, hipster disco and good ole’ fashion pop with samples (probably intended to be ironic) from Three 6 Mafia to Devo to the Brothers Johnson.
Sonically, the brightness of † shocked me upon first listen. It was mastered to be as sparkly as the brightest techno record out there, yet they’re more associated with the hipster/electro scene than anything going on in Europe. It sounds like a harmonic exciter set to STUN in the range of 12 kHz and above.
The arrangements are amazing throughout the whole album. They come together in a way that I full band really can’t, because the depth of instrumentation and tonality is limitless with electronic music, especially sampled music. Chopped-up sounds cut in and out at will, creating a dense harmonic landscape which is too fast-paced to comprehend until you’ve listened over and over again. It is a mix of the familiar (e.g. slap bass, disco-style drums, catchy vocals) and the foreign (e.g. distorted found sounds, granular synthesis).
I contend that that their crossover success (from Eurodance to the American indie scene) is owed to two things:
1) Vintage samples. Had they used modern keyboard drum kits and synth patches, Justice would not have made an impact on American pop music, nor would they have been nominated for a Grammy.
Instead, they took a cue from American hip hop (the “digging in the crates“ aesthetic) by using lofi drum hits, funky basslines and retro synth sounds.
2) The role of the snare drum. The snare plays a much more significant role here than in a typical techno album. It is up front in the mix and has a considerable amount of low end.
Justice also has an impressive remix resume, including N*E*R*D, Justin Timberlake, Franz Ferdinand, U2 and a 2009 Grammy-winning remix of MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” No plans for any new Justice releases yet, but I will post when they are announced.