Wednesday 16 November 2022

Charting the Stars

Getting around to writing this, I was waiting until all my tech woes were sorted out. A little bit of a retrospective this time, after seeing that Justice's Planisphere is now available as a separate release, I thought it'd be good to take a closer look at it once more. It's an interesting curio of the duo's discography - originally a promo CD for a Dior show back in '08, it'd see another release on the digital version of Audio, Video, Disco in its entire long form version (that replaced other bonus track Presence from the other versions) as well. And here we are again with another standalone release, coinciding with Ed Banger's new Bandcamp push, complete with updated artwork to boot. Let's take a look.

And speaking of that artwork, it should tip you off to the kind of experience you're in store for here. On the four parts of Planisphere, the Justice boys wear their hearts on their sleeves - a 17 minute epic that encapsulates all their influences. Personally I think the whole saga works better in parts than as one continuous stream, but I suppose the full length version is more in line with the very clear prog rock influence on display, see the extended jams of say, Tangerine Dream for reference.

Part I sets the stage - channeling the cinematic opening of Genesis with some dramatic piano stabs... for about 45 seconds or so before we land both feet firmly in that Cross-era sound. If you rinsed that record as much as I did back then you'll immediately hear the similarities. Personally I find Part I to be a bit plodding in terms of pacing for the first half but then again it is supposed to be the soundtrack to a fashion show so we are missing an integral part of the experience. That all changes in the second half though, where things take a very Valentine turn around the 3 minute mark - and it is brilliant.

Part 2 leans heavily on the duo's penchant for slightly spooky soundtracks (as they did previously with the Goblin sample for Phantom) at the very beginning, before settling back into that Valentine-esque groove. At the 50 second mark we start to take off and we launch back into something that shares more in common with the heavier sides of their debut LP, very Waters Of Nazareth in execution. The shortest of the Tetralogy, it does feel very much like a bridge between the two parts, especially given the sudden change at the very end that ushers in part III.

III continues that trend, leading with that grinding, almost engine revving sound that underpinned the Justice sound of the time. I think it might be my least favourite of the bunch, but not for any particular reason - looking over my 'played' stats for them all it is the lowest of the four but that's not a great metric to measure that by as Part IV is heavily skewing those numbers, but we'll get to that in due time. Because in reality, as good as the rest of the parts are, IV really, really steals the show.

And it wastes no time making that clear from the get-go. Opening with a frankly decadent display of guitar shredding. It is between this and SebastiAn's bootleg of Killing In The Name Of I was able to get a few metal-heads into electronic back in my high school days. The crescendo of this extended jam is up there as one of the finest tracks the duo have ever made, an exclamation mark at the end of an already killer tracklist. All these years later, the build up and break at 1:10 still makes me a little excited, catapulting me back to my days of chasing the next electro banger of the week. I've said in the past I'm not the biggest fan of guitar noodling, especially in electronic music - but I'll be damned if it doesn't work wonders here. For the final 3 quarters it is a non-stop barrage of furious fretwork, an absolute tour de force.

I might not have kept up as much with Justice or the rest of the Ed Banger crew, but coming back to tracks like this never fail to bring me right back to that heyday. Planisphere has aged a little more gracefully than some other examples of the era, partly because it's not out there to be this week's hot thing for the dance floor, but even so I'm sure that it'd still get the floor filled as it is. While not as pervasive as their debut album Cross, Planisphere is widely held up as one of Justice's finest hours, and hopefully as you've heard, rightfully so. Predictably the Vinyl version sold out pretty rapidly, folks on Discogs have been begging for it for literal years if you go back and look. It might have been in stock if I'd have posted this when I originally intended to, but between tech issues and Life™ it's been delayed slightly.

Even so, I hope you've enjoyed this little look back, whether you're a Ed Banger Veteran or this is your first time. I still have to write that full breakdown of last month's bandcamp Friday, and if I don't hurry up I'll end up having to do two back to back! I'm gonna try write a couple quicker ones in the meantime too but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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