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Justice embraces softness and sinewy rhythms in Hyperdrama – album review

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The scales of justice weigh the rough and the smooth. Crudeness used to rule when the duo Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay emerged in Paris in the 2000s. As newcomers to the French-tinged dance scene that had coalesced around Daft Punk, they played the role of electro-hooligans, bringing distortion and hammering riffs to club music. It was done in a knowing way, almost with a grin. In reality, Augé and de Rosnay, who met as young graphic designers, came from middle-class backgrounds.

Their brilliant 2007 debut album hit the ground like a heavyweight boxer, all dancing feet and knockout haymakers. But there were also funnier moments, like the Jackson 5 disco routines from their hit single “DANCE.” Their sound became more refined over subsequent records as the electro-hooligans learned more about production. As the 2010s progressed, their music – influenced by extended pump-rock and polished ’80s funk – increasingly blended the smooth with the rough.

Hyperdrama is their fourth album. It is published more than seven years after its predecessor Woman. “Generator” is a return to the testosterone rush of their debut album, all hysterically overdriven synthesizers and piercing basslines. But it’s an outlier. The other songs are calmer and lusher.

More than half have guest vocalists. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker sings over a swirling, buttery beat on “Neverander.” His bleached voice also floats attractively through the heavier ‘One Night/All Night’. Another psychedelicist, Connan Mockasin, appears in ‘Explorer’, an atmospheric exercise in 1970s cosmic music. American R&B singer Miguel has an attractive cameo in “Saturnine”. His compatriot Thundercat sings a similarly high-pitched vocal on “The End,” which channels The Weeknd (who teased an upcoming collaboration with Augé and de Rosnay earlier this year).

Instrumental songs are interspersed between these songs. They sound great, with well-layered textures and sinewy rhythms, but the music lacks the grit or identity of previous performances. Although ‘Muscle Memory’ delivers on that Hyperdrama‘s title with extravagant giallo film effects and “Generator” is a blast, other tracks leave little impression. Nowadays, the scales of Justice are tipped too far in favor of smoothness.

★★★☆☆

‘Hyperdrama’ is released by Ed Banger Records/Because Music