|Sonic experimentation means never having to say "Sorry, my music sounds like shit."|
Yeah, I know that's not really your fault. And actually, I'm glad nobody told me. If I'd been aware of the album before it's release, I would have been all psyched about it, and then really really disappointed. Crushed, even.
As it stands, feeling slightly sheepish about coming so late to the party, I am only mostly really disappointed.
Justice's debut (cross) was one of the best albums I've ever heard. Point blank. It was inventive, intense, and made me proud to be an Ableton Live user. More than just a dance record, or a pop record, or an exercise in DJ skills, it was bricolage at its best, and completely slammin'. As Rob Beschizza argues in his important xenocritical essay "Mixtape of the Lost Decade," Justice seems to occupy an important niche in a musical and aesthetic otherwhen between the 70s and 80s, taking the best from both.
It seems likely then that any followup to such a great album would be a disappointment- sophomore slump or no. With Audio, Video, Disco, though Justice seems to have just completely gone off the rails. The music itself isn't so bad, and represents a sort of intentional excursion into their prog side. I found myself fondly reminded of Goblin. But that's not the problem. The problem is the production values. They aren't there.
Mind you, (cross) wasn't Gaucho, by any means. It was full of multilayered slap bass samples, tortured synths, and the most egregiously pumping sidechain compression I've ever heard... but it sounds great. There are portions of it that are intentionally harsh- but artistically so. It may be cliche to say so, but even the best recordings I could find of Disco sounded like they were mastered on the mythical Fisher-Price. It's hard to listen to- and it's especially hard to want to listen to again. Part of me wonders if the whole thing isn't a joke. It's not Axe Hero, though, just washed out and feeble.
I still hold out hope, though. Some really excellent covers of songs from Audio, Video, Disco are out there, and that leads me to believe that judging by the music, Justice haven't completely lost their minds, just perhaps indulged their love of audio experimentation a bit too much. Everyone- ahem- cross their fingers that it's just sophomore slump, and please... if you hear about a new Justice album- let me know.