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Justice - "Cross" (2007)

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  Justice - "Cross" (2007) Empty Justice - "Cross" (2007)

Post  Mr007 Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:29 pm

The Parisian electro-dance pop duo Justice released their debut LP Cross (alternatively displayed as a cross symbol) in 2007 to a variety of reactions from dance purists. Their distorted yet distilled brand of dance music differs heavily from fellow French acts like Air or Daft Punk in that it borrows instrumental samples that sound reminiscent of 1980s heavy metal guitar and drum tones heard through an idealized 70s disco filter. Distorted metal-esque bass lines snake their way through standout tracks like “Let There Be Light” and similarly modulated synth stabs push tracks like “One Minute to Midnight” into a realm that is essentially all Justice’s own in the electro-dance sphere.

Of course, nods to heavy metal alone do not a dance album make; Justice’s downright funky and glitchy disco vocal sampling on “New Jack” play counterpoint to a bouncy 70s funk bass riff while modulation and distortion effects propel the song through a number of theme changes. These changing distorted “glitch” tones add a percussive element to the song, and create more rhythmic interest than a simple “four on the floor” dance bass drum beat otherwise would.

“Genesis” opens with massive tympani and snare drum roll samples and segues through to the swaggering glitch-disco sound Justice carefully cultivates throughout the record. Make no mistake about it – Justice very definitively and distinctively develops a sonic signature for themselves on this LP; in particular, the incredibly boosted mid-range of the songs, a penchant for either distorted or 70s glam slap-bass sampled bass guitars, distorted synth leads, and laser-like sound effects conjure an image of some sort of idealized 1970s heavy-metal-meets-glam-disco concept.

Tracks like “Stress”, however, show some of the shortcomings inherent in fostering a signature sound so carefully. The string arrangements sampled sound forced and slightly less than fresh compared to the rest of the record, however one wonders whether or not to take them in a tongue-in-cheek manner considering the larger-than-life absurdity of the rest of their sample choices’ tones. Indeed, the album’s main single (and most disco-heavy track) “D.A.N.C.E.” with its oft-copped boys’ choir samples singing the main vocal hook works well despite the huge hurdle of sampling a boys’ choir without making it sound too cheesy.

One of the most interesting things about this record - and one that is easy to forget about when listening to it because it is just so absurdly fun - is the near-complete absence of the throbbing and overpowering bass that mainstream dance music so commonly employs. Of course the bass is there; however Justice prefers more treble heavy slap bass samples to evoke their disco theme than pulsing and muddy “space-bass” sounds. When they do distort the bass tones, they utilize the lines as leads more than bass for your subwoofer’s sake. When listening to some of the tracks at near ridiculous volumes, I realized how effective the midrange band boost was in allowing the ultra-compressed synth stabs and glitch bits to stand out to the listener. Justice is extremely effective at developing and maintaining rhythmic drive throughout the record with unconventional sample choices rather than 808-style sounds alone or the now bland and clichéd unnatural pulsing bass drum on every downbeat that most generic euro-techno employs.

Overall the album is fantastic in a number of senses. It is fun and certainly dance-able, and it definitely sounds like the French duo indulged themselves and made more of a metal and disco- tinged dance record than many other mainstream artists would even likely dream would be acceptable (in further research, I noticed that Justice remixes “Master of Puppets” live – those definitely are cranked Marshall amplifiers they’re sampling).


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