[6 June 2007]
This grab-bag of Ed Banger Records artist showcases may be meant as a hold-over until the real event of the Ed Banger summer, the release of Justice’s full-length debut album. If you’ve heard that album, its lead single “D.A.N.C.E” or at least the older tracks that make the cut—“Waters of Nazareth” and “Let There Be Light”—you’ll know Justice has been trafficking in this heavy metal electro for a while. The new tracks add this perhaps-knowing distortion of disco’s core elements—schmaltzy strings, soul samples—but keep the same general stuttering churn.
Ed Banger, Justice’s record label and home to an inordinately hip cadre of purveyors of new school French House, hopes to represent a larger movement than Justice’s cocaine electro on the second volume of its Ed Rec series. But it turns out the (vehement) dismissal of Justice that posits the group as one extended piss-take of “Killing in the Name” extends to an alarming number of Ed Banger’s staff. Mr. Oizo, DJ Mehdi, Feadz and SebastiAn all share elements of this idea that simply nodding towards signifiers of a sound (industrial metal) is enough to ignite a whole dance movement. And while they certainly fail to meet a purist’s idea of what a dance “movement” should consist of, the fact remains that a few of these artists are making really fun dance music—music that a lot of kids on both sides of the Atlantic are losing their shit to every weekend.
The major portion of Ed Rec Vol. 2 is made up of electro-tinged French House, the kind that’s been finding its way into mix CDs and hipster DJ sets for the past year and a half. Feadz’ “Edwrecker” is representative: swirling with a full, dense texture, the song piles effect on effect: distorted vocals, heavy organ bass, occasional sirens and a complex, layered percussion that’s more than a little ‘80s. Krazy Baldhead’s “Strings of Death”, another high point, is more like industrial instrumental hip hop, the kind of thing some were expecting of RJD2 before he went all soft, and effective enough. There are two or three space-fillers, and a few obligatory remixes thrown in at the end. These include a mash-up of two Klaxons songs into one, but after the novelty wears off, there’s little new that’s added here.
But back to the two most high profile figures in the Ed Banger catalogue, Justice and SebastiAn. Oddly, neither are represented on more than one song. From Justice we get “Phantom”, typically Justice-like with its revving changes in tempo and its melody catchy enough to make walking through a city street seem badass. On their album, we’re given two versions of the song—the first, basically the same as that presented here, but the second a much more interesting take on electrodisco, with the theme transformed behind lush disco-strings. From SebastiAn we get only the mediocre “Greel”, dirty and entirely expected from the French electro aficionado, but somehow underwhelming. The track’s all vibrating bass and looped sirens—somehow all that noise can’t convince us the song’s worth getting excited about.
The label’s obviously behind Uffie, who’s had her share of both excited supporters and cynical detractors since the first songs popped up on the internet. To those familiar with her output, it’s no surprise her contribution, “Dismissed”, is defiant, pugilistic, and about as profane as you can get this side of Peaches. The old-school flow is perhaps Uffie’s most contentious point, but the biggest problem with this song (and much of Uffie’s output) is that its music is too simplistic; the squelching beat’s not enough to carry Uffie’s slow, deliberate rhymes. Increasingly, what had appeared to be irreverent fun has lately been losing a lot of its flavour.
Ed Banger may yet have a claim as the label of choice for in-the-know fans of indie dance, but if it’s the case it’s going to come from Justice’s debut album, not from this half-hearted compilation. It’s not all bad, but it just isn’t as much fun as this dangerous music should be.