Isaac Hewlings looks into the label that gives us Justice, Uffie, and Parisian Electronica.
For every genre that becomes mainstream, or influences the mainstream, there has to be an odder, less straightforward artistic force in the background. With the rise of hip-hop was the funk and blues inspired Herbie Hancock and the like, who ushered the way for the eminently talented and accessible Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. Similarly, rock’n’roll – a genre that almost looks twee now, had its beginnings in the raucous, aggressively sexual music of Muddy Waters or Little Walter. So what to make of electro? This is a genre which is almost synonymous with House, and is the standard fare of chain pubs or clubs with names like ‘Life’ or ‘Streetlightz’. Clearly, this doesn’t do it justice, whether Fedde Le Grand is your thing or not, there is a great deal of other music which can respectably adopt the name ‘electro’. The most salient examples of this are the now iconic duo of Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay – otherwise known as Justice. Embodying the best of energetic, playful and explorative music adopting a position in the limelight, one is left to wonder where does their music and energy come from?
Step up, Ed Banger, a record label that more than any other harnessed the initial upsurge of interest in and output from, ‘electro’ producers; their early output consisting not only of the ubiquitous Justice, but SebastiAn, Uffie, and Mr.Oizo. This range of music encapsulates everything from the eminently danceable and accessible, to the crazy bleeps and mash-ups of Mr.Oizo known to most for his ‘Flat Beat’ track with the puppet, Flat Eric in the Levi’s ad of old. What makes Ed Banger more than an (admittedly, extremely good) run-of-the-mill record label, is their incredibly well coordinated graphics and artwork, courtesy of Bertrand Sommie, who is known as So Me. That bloody great cross that’s all over Justice gigs? Yeah, that’s him. With all the artists within the Ed Banger stable, So Me has created a particular look, along with the Ed Banger aesthetic in general. One’s of particular note are the cover artwork for SebastiAn (‘Ross Ross Ross’ EP), Uffie (‘Pop the Glock’ EP) and DJ Mehdi (‘Lucky Boy’ album). As for Ed Banger’s ‘look’ it seems to be taken from cartoons, doodling and generally by people who don’t know or care about the rules of ‘design’.
This brashness and energy has resulted in some of the best videos, as well as music, in the dance/electronica scene of late. A particularly fitting example of this is when the ‘We are Your Friends’ video beat Kanye West’s ‘Touch the Sky’ at the European MTV awards, memorably stating ‘MTV loses credibility if I don’t win’. He subsequently went on to work with Pedro Winter of Ed Banger. Other examples of So Me’s work includes Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E’ video – one of the most inventive music videos ever made.
So why should you be interested in them if you’re just not that interested by this odd, perhaps pretentious group of people? Well, aside for the above reasons, its always interesting to know where something came from – in this case the more mainstream of electro/house. For every artist that uses the kind of sound and look that is associated with electro – it’s likely a label like Ed Banger had something to do with it at the beginning. If you’ve seen Kid Cudi’s ‘Day and Night’ video, you’ve seen So Me’s work; and if the idea of a mainstream hip-hop influenced by Parisian boys with beards doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I can’t think what else will.