One finds it hard not to immediately confuse the co-creator of this album with his namesake, the French duo that has towered over the electronic dance world for years, which is unfortunate because the Justice that is behind the new experimental album ‘839’ certainly possesses a different vision for his music, and deserves praise for it. 839 is the first vinyl LP Justice’s label Modern Urban Jazz has released since 1996, and this is reflected by the distinct change in style.
Having been making music for twenty years as of next year, Tony Bowes has plied his trade to many genres of music, leading to the creation of his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Viewpoints’ in 1998, in which he effortlessly combined elements of Drum and Bass with Jungle to produce a unique ambience that can be heard in tracks such as Aquisse. Mixmag described it as ‘Pure Musical Vision’ and Select ‘Maybe the best drum and bass album ever’.
It is interesting then to see Justice trying his hand at something different with 839. But, like all good musicians, he has evolved with music. Moving away from the breakbeat sound that has served him so well, Justice has taken inspiration from minimal field - “I was feeling the experimental side of some of the bits I was hearing, and experimenting is what I have always been about really, so I guess this combined with the techno elements involved, is what drew me in, plus as you say putting our own slant on it was something we wanted to do.”
The album’s other parent, Metro, is no stranger to the music industry either. Having known Justice for years before the collaboration, Justice described the creation of 839 as progressing in an “organic fashion.” This natural progression is reflected by the tracks used on the album and overall makes for an enjoyable listening experience. Having stuck to using between 170-175 beats per minute, the rest does in no way feel planned or forced, but almost improvised.
The album is experienced as a journey, if you sit and focus just listening to the whole album, it is almost meditational. It has the rare ability to be enjoyed in a dark mood or a light mood, but either way it allows time for the listener. This experimental album has received much support from well known artists that one would probably link to such a different sound; Laurent Garnier says “Pure abstract moody atmospheres...a very beautiful album to travel with.
Dark but not heavy, simple and complex at the same time…Something I will listen to over and over. This is a brilliant album.” Illusionist describes it as “One BIG tune.” The album is certainly an acquired taste, it successfully shows the diversity of drum and bass and the futuristic sounds that can be made when combining it with other genres. 839 is more about representing a listening experience and creating an atmosphere rather than a universally accessible album.
Give it your attention and you will be pleasantly surprised where it takes you. It should be onwards and upwards from here for Justice & Metro and Modern Urban Jazz.