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Justice reckon with their place in the electronic Hyperdrama


Release date: 26 April 2024
Justice Hyperdrama cover
26 April 2024, 12:00 Written by Matt Young

Can we be honest and talk about the elephant in the room?

Two words have plagued Justice since the French duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay began releasing their earliest tracks – Daft Punk. Unfortunately, there’s been a perpetual yin and yang in the timing of both artist's releases and the natural comparisons of locale, musical genres, and tales of exacting recording technique are equally undeniable, often to Justice’s detriment. So, perhaps with the predictability of Godzilla rising from his slumber – and eight years on from 2016's Woman – with the robots powered down in retirement, Hyperdrama appears with all the surprise of any opportunistic beast.

It begins brightly enough. The rather prophetically named "Neverender", featuring Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, glistens and funked-up bass accompanies fuzzed dream pop, over four-to-the-floor beats. Parker’s vocals sit layered melodiously over the whole thing. The trouble is that it doesn’t lead anywhere, there are dips in the tone as it meanders and it’s nowhere near exciting enough. Gentleness has a place but that seeming lack of passion is where Woman and 2011's Audio, Video, Disco both underperformed critically. So, as returns go it feels lacklustre and it’s fair to say by the end of the opening song it feels like we’re in for a long journey.

Besides working on fresh music the Parisien pair have been looking back at fifteen years since their debut album release Cross – and battling copyright infringement with Justin Bieber on his own Justice album. With the former still rattling around their minds you can see where Hyperdrama manages to eject some sparks of the hard rock and unpredictable dance party bangers they announced themselves with on their debut. "Generator" sparkles with this energy most but it’s shortlived as “Afterimage“ featuring Rimon and “One Night/All Night“ again featuring Parker, both sink back into respective and sedate dad-rock stupors. “Dear Alan” gets super funky and picks up the pace, as does the HI-NRG borrowing “Incognito” before making a segue into “Mannequin Love” starring The Flints that ends too abruptly.

The jazzy space interlude of “Moonlight Rendez-Vous” is an evocative 80s pastiche of the soundtrack to the faux-erotic Red Shoe Diaries, or maybe there’s a sophisticated lounge jazz comparison more fitting, whichever one it is it allows you to take a breath but here Hyperdrama also leaves the dancefloor and wanders off into the atmosphere, feeling predictably less grounded as a result. The Conan Mockasin featuring “Explorer” is a mash of discordant synth chords and off-kilter stuttering sounds that render the song almost unlikeable, besides being mostly unlistenable. Mockasin’s narration towards the back end falls flat, telling an uninteresting tale, and eventually, the music stops like they’ve all given up trying.

That’s unfortunate as there are still four tracks left. Thankfully “Muscle Memory” is one of them. Building harsh, percussive moments into wide astral orchestration, it doesn't quite possess the awe-inspiring tingle it could have but after the recent set of material, we’ll take even mildly euphoric as a victory. It does melt deftly into “Harpy Dream” where things get more interesting, for all of that song's disappointing short twenty-eight seconds. Then it dies. The album fails to reach any kind of intensity again so with “Saturnine” featuring Miquel and the closing song “The End” welcoming Thundercat it ebbs away without further ceremony. Despite a final lift in audio levels, the pace at the close is a laborious shuffle rather than an emphatic strut.

Ultimately the album's uneven tempo and uncertainty at its heart make it unclear what Hyperdrama wants to be and to whom they still appeal. Second guessing has rarely seemed so obvious and the once disco punks have very clearly, finally, left the building.

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