Sharing a label with artists like the more abrasive Sebastian and Mr. Oizo, Justice has always seemed like Ed Banger Records’ most conventional – and, coincidentally or not, their most popular – artist, adding nothing particularly new to standard dance formulas. Wo man shatters these assumptions, trouncing their sophomore effort (Audio, Video, Disco) with a bare-faced emulation of old-school disco and funk, which oddly feels like their most authentic effort yet.
Each track is a measured evolution of sonic landscapes we’ve all heard before, but it’s done so well one can hardly mind. ‘Safe and Sound’, the opener, instantly recalls the seventies with its choral vocals and tight slap bass and the album continues on as a marriage of the retro and the modern. Justice basks in the analogue, the imperfect, and balances it with slick modern production that never threatens to appropriate the spotlight. Even the songwriting seems to originate from another era, particularly on tracks like ‘Pleasure’ and ‘Randy’ but neither of these songs feel laboured or false.
“Justice basks in the analogue, the imperfect, and balances it with slick modern production”
There’s something euphoric about Justice’s grasp on harmony, as with Fire’s tight chorus and the fantastical progressions of ‘Alakazam!’, the latter of which seems to affectionately call back to Giorgio Moroder. Though the bulk of the album boasts some wonderful guest vocalists and layer upon layer of polished, polyphonic funk, it’s the instrumentals that make up the strongest moments; Justice are able to experiment more freely on the Tangerine Dream-esque ‘Chorus’ and ‘Close Call’, or the obnoxiously baroque ‘Heavy Metal’, a track that doesn’t quite sit smoothly with the rest of the record (though it does ensure the band never grows too repetitive or outstays their welcome) but which, individually, is a masterpiece of symbiotically bold sound design.