Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top 10 of the decade - seventh entry

Justice – Waters of Nazareth (Erol Alkan’s Durr Durr Durrrrrr re-Edit - Ed Banger 2005)

(series growing here)

Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé’s clattering excess and crowning achievement was another for metropolitan post-ravers not too fussed what the genre is they’re swimming in as long as it shakes them around their patch of Hoxton dancefloor. Personally, it belongs in my grower category: France’s Ed Banger records with their diverse roster of acts (rather than invisible producers) such as Busy P (the label’s founder), Uffie and DJ Mehdi and engraved art on the covers were getting good recognition, and Justice themselves had broken through with their overhaul of a Simian track eventually known as We Are Your Friends (probably a tune to make it mainstream decade-best dance comp). I had known about Waters for a while. It was when my mate Ian in Brighton, usually not one to perceive quality in house or electro as he leant towards stuff with breakbeats in, said how much he liked it that I thought I’d try and discover it anew.

So I bought it (the second version with remixes, still at laughably expensive import prices) probably in late 2006/early 2007 and the quality of the little fragments I’d heard were finally confirmed. So:Me’s cover artwork, the engraved church organ, the gothic graffiti of the band logo (incorporating the † in the t of justice) all add to a highly-fetishisable package. I favour Alkan’s slightly leaner re-edit although little of the original is lost in the bid to make it that bit more dancefloor-(un)friendly. Like La Rock in my Top 10, this is another that is just too unclean for part-time hedonists who, fresh from meeting up with 'the guys' at All Bra Bum, like to party on to music they might not have even heard before. Every six months. For someone’s birthday. Christi-cakes, that was a c-razy night!

Nevertheless, this is music for less discerning, more party-hard times, where experimentation with a populist edge flourishes. Waters of Nazareth is a glorious analogue din, guitary riffs resampled so many times their dirt is almost tangible, Justice’s signature bass-sound rubbing you up the wrong way, thumping and nagging, simple but emphatic drum machine patterns tick-ticking away and occasionally the main tune sails in impassively over the bombsite below. It’s not progressive, sophisticated or one for dance music connoisseurs looking for the sonido nuevo but like many of the best 00s tune does a fine job of messing with what producers already have to play with. Call it electro-house if you like, but it has little of either early electro’s robot-funk or similarity with the majority of 00s post-clash schmaltzy low-grade synth funk; Waters of Nazareth drifted free from the generic flotsam.

Tunes as big (both in its sound and popularity) take on a second life. Use on the careering, dangerous, etc Grand Theft Auto console game makes sense, but the wiki entry tells uncomfortably of appropriation by the Top Gear knobs (‘when Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May drove three cheap rear wheel drive cars in an ice race in France’ – ha-ha), and there is a TV advert for an electronic retailer like Comet that pays skinflinted compliment by having someone cover over its latest call to buy shit, but cultural mediators always want to be associated with such big moments even if that entails complete defamiliarisation of context.

I bought the Jus†ice album on its release in June 2007 but, even though the awards from the dance music industry flowed, have never got on with it. Phantom has some admirable guitar excrescence, and Let There Be Light is good but basically ploughing the same turf as Nazareth, and was on its original 12” release. De Rosnay and Augé are to be admired for their singular approach, developing a sonic palette geared for uneasy listening and wildly different from many of their peers (the wiki entry talks about their setup) but the same components are used over and over again on †, so much so that it’s almost a concept album, the concept being let’s see how far we can go with this set of default sounds. All those cut up bass licks, grungey pads and compressed vocals seem to be fed through a very strange sepia filter (some tunes sounds like the outro of 70s US detective shows) which makes it queasy in a nice ariel pinkish way but also reduces some of the impact. I haven’t taken † down the Exchange yet, but it’s surely only a cull or two away. Perhaps the new album due for release next year will see them hit form, perhaps their lot will now always be ‘will this do’ rerubs of major-label cred-hunters such as Kravitz and U2.

No matter, Nazareth takes its place in the canon (which may appeal to their French catholic sensibility, given the religious imagery) as their must-have, the classic. Digitally, Justice’s moment sits nicely in the iTunes library, next to the earlier d&b JUSTICE (my favourite here being Tate Modern). Justice, certainly more Daft Punk than Bob Sinclar.

So that's entry No 7. Just three to go in your (sorry my) top tunes of the decade I really hate calling the noughties! I reckon i'm timing it nicely for just missing the cut as 1 January 'Twenty Ten' (again, eurrgh!) gets going.
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