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Go bang! Celebrating 15 years of Ed Banger in 15 key releases

To celebrate 15 years of French label Ed Banger, we chart the history of the seminal Busy P-fronted imprint via 15 key records...

Words: ANDREW RAFTER

In the fickle world of dance music where trends come and go like the tide, a label that manages to remain relevant without compromising its initial vision is a rarity; a label that’s done it for 15 years is a miracle. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Ed Banger Records’ visionary Pedro Winter (who previously managed Daft Punk) has made the label’s journey look easy. It’s clear that Daft Punk’s unwillingness to compromise on their artistic vision has rubbed off on Winter, as the label’s vision hasn’t deviated too far over the years: “A music label run with a skater ethos,” as Winter so eloquently puts it.

The label’s roster has swelled to 20, with new signings Borussia, MYD, Vladimir Cauchemar, 10LEC6 and Boston Bun all breathing new life into the Parisian imprint in recent years, alongside staples such as Justice, SebastiAn and Breakbot. It could be argued that the imprint is more relevant now than it was in the early noughties, thanks to the boom in house music across the world, something that both Boston Bun and Cassius have used to their advantage. From pressing an album in chocolate to hosting their own theme park, Ed Banger Land, nothing seems too farfetched for Pedro Winter and So-Me (the label’s art director). In fact, in 2018, the label took on its biggest challenge: reimagining its revered backcatalog as a 70-piece orchestral performance. And 2019 might be a new high watermark for the label, with Justice’s latest live album, ‘Woman Worldwide’, getting a Grammy nomination for Best Album. Ed Banger Records, then, represents what an artistically fearless label can achieve with the right backing.

Here, we chart the label’s history across its most iconic records, from the early scratchy electro of Justice’s ‘Cross’ to the hip-hop-infused house of DJ Mehdi’s ‘Lucky Boy’ and Uffie’s ‘Sex Dreams And Denim Jeans’.

DJ Mehdi - 'Lucky Boy' (2006)

DJ Mehdi’s debut album came at the perfect time for Ed Banger Records. Having built a name for itself on shaky MySpace trends, DJ Mehdi’s ‘Lucky Boy’ saw Mehdi Favéris-Essadi delivering an album that cemented Ed Banger as a label that truly believed in the album format. Brash house-fueled cuts such as ‘Signatune’ and ‘Lucky Boy’ sat perfectly alongside tracks like ‘Saharian Break’ and ‘Pony Rocking’ (feat. Feadz), which both evoked ’80s hip-hop. DJ Mehdi sadly died in 2011, when he fell through a skylight at his Paris home, celebrating Henry Riton’s birthday, who he regularly collaborated with as Carte Blanche.

Justice - 'Cross' (2007)

Justice’s debut album ‘Cross’ put Ed Banger on the map. Arriving at Creamfields in 2007 and seeing an inflatable crucifix glowing at the festival’s entrance was a real statement — it felt like dance music was in the midst of a fullblown sonic revolution. Xavier De Rosnay’s and Gaspard Auge’s debut will always be both Ed Banger’s and the duo’s most important release. Cuts such as the menacing ‘Stress’, the gritty ‘Waters Of Nazareth’ and sing-along anthems like ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ left an indelible mark on dance music, and finally bridged the divide between moshers and ravers.

Justice - 'A Cross The Universe' (2008)

For Ed Banger’s first foray into the live arena, Justice released ‘A Cross The Universe’ — a live album and tour documentary that followed the Parisian duo from the bright lights of New York to the sprawling plains of the Midwest, and then onto the dusty deserts of Coachella. The accompanying live album cemented Justice as a full-blown live act — a formula they’ve stuck to ever since. Filmed by Romain Gavras, So-Me and the band, the documentary featured questionable altercations with fans and the police, plus celebrity cameos, and proved once again Ed Banger could deliver both visually and musically on a single release.

Uffie - 'Sex Dreams And Denim Jeans' (2010)

Uffie gave Ed Banger’s otherwise testosterone-fueled stable a different dimension. But by the time her debut album dropped in 2010, the label’s penchant for privilege, flashiness and brashness had begun to grate, meaning Anna-Catherine Hartley’s debut landed on a scene that had largely moved on. Musically, the album was a triumph thanks to Feadz’s touch on tracks like the ‘Pop The Glock’ and ‘Give It Away’, while Mr Oizo also lent a helping hand. Listening back now, it’s clear it was the right album at the wrong time for artist and label and ended up making Uffie sound like a puppet on Mr Oizo’s and Feadz’s hands.

SebastiAn - 'Total' (2011)

When SebastiAn dropped ‘Ross Ross Ross’, it was quite unlike anything the dance music world had heard before. Like a fine wine, it has aged well, and it went on to become a touchstone for Ed Banger’s early sound. The Frenchman’s debut album, ‘Total’, saw this same eclectic approach to genres, and saw SebastiAn stitching Princeinspired crooners like ‘Embody’ (including his own voice) and ‘Love In Motion’, alongside industrial bangers for an exhilarating if slightly directionless listen. His long-awaited second album is rumored to be out in 2019, and should put the enigmatic SebastiAn back on the dance music map again.

Busy P & DJ Mehdi - 'Let The Children Techno' (2011)

‘Let The Children Techno’ saw Busy P and DJ Mehdi compile a mix compilation of brand new music from both the label’s roster and close friends. That meant fresh material from Breakbot, SebastiAn and Para One alongside brain scrambling cuts from Duke Dumont, Djedjotronic, Skream and Zombie Nation. Elsewhere, there were contributions from Siriusmo, Gesaffelstein and Flying Lotus. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked, but with two of France’s best putting it together, ‘Let The Children Techno’ became more than the sum of its parts and proved that Ed Banger was bigger than Justice.

Mr Oizo - 'Stade 2' (2011)

To the untrained ear, Mr Oizo music sounds like it’s been lazily slapped together on a computer, and in many cases, it probably was. But there’s something raw, playful and crazy about Quentin Dupieux’s style as he deconstructs dance music tropes and reconstructs them for the modern world. From the collapsed French touch of ‘Camelfuck’ to the rib-rattling bro-step of ‘Douche Beat’, each track takes aim at a particular dance music genre, sounding like an open letter. And while it may have fallen on few ears in 2011, it remains one of Mr Oizo’s most outlandish, and most pure albums.

Breakbot - 'By Your Side' (2012)

Breakbot has always delivered Ed Banger’s silkiest cuts. In fact, the Frenchman’s 2012 album ‘By Your Side’ was released as a chocolate record that melted when it was played. And it did play. The producer’s second album featured a bevy of killer cuts, including ‘Baby I’m Yours’ (hot take: the Aeroplane remix still bangs) and ‘Fantasy’, featuring Irfane and Ruckazoid respectively. Breakbot has arguably been the label’s most consistent producer (he’s already working on his fourth album), and is one of Ed Banger’s most important artists, and having just released a six-track EP, the Frenchman is very much still at the top of his luminous disco game.

Krazy Baldhead - 'The Noise In The Sky' (2012)

Despite the wealth of talent on offer across Ed Banger’s roster, the label’s most accomplished musician is Krazy Baldhead, one of its very first signings. Never one to court attention, Pierre-Antoine Grison would rather go to India to practice the tabla for six months than create social media ‘content’. For his second album, Krazy Baldhead delved into his ’70s influences. The result is an absolutely contemporary long-player that’s one of Ed Banger’s most slept-on albums. Tracks such as the glitchy space disco of ‘Day In, Day Out’ and the Bollywood-infused ‘Miles High’ still sound as fresh today as they did when they came out of the producer’s oven.

Breakbot - 'Still Waters' (2016)

While label cohorts Justice, SebastiAn, and Mr Oizo created an entire scene out of compressed, glitchy electro, Breakbot (real name Thibaut Berland) has steadfastly crafted his own signature sound that, on first inspection, didn’t really fit with Ed Banger’s club pedigree. ‘Still Waters’, his third album, is where Breakbot’s sound finally came together across an entire record. The faux trap funk of ‘Man Without Shadow’ sat perfectly against the proto electro of ‘All It Takes’, and finally saw Breakbot deliver the album we all knew he could.

Mr Oizo - 'All Wet' (2016)

While most of Mr Oizo’s albums have been solo affairs, Quentin Dupieux’s sixth studio album ‘All Wet’ was billed as an exciting change for the autonomous producer. For the album, Dupieux tapped up his most famous friends for a collaborative affair. Sure, it sounded a bit spotty in places, but there were some genuinely brilliant tracks nestled among the usual Oizo wildness. The title track, recorded alongside Siriusmo, was a high water mark; so too was ‘Ruhe’ which was impregnated with dark, German techno tones from Boys Noize; and then there’s the electrifying ‘End Of The World’ alongside bro-step icon Skrillex.

Various Artists - 'Ed Rec 100' (2017)

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that, when Ed Banger releases a compilation, is when the label is at its most cohesive. “It was too hard to choose which artist would do the 100th release of the label, so we asked everybody to make a track for this record,” label boss Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, said ahead of its release in 2017, and he wasn’t kidding. ‘Ed Rec 100’ featured fresh music from the label’s entire roster (they even got something from SebastiAn). ‘Ed Rec 100’ represented the whole family renewing its vows to stay together, and is probably Ed Banger’s most diverse compilation to date.

Justice - 'Woman Worldwide' (2018)

Arguably Justice’s most accomplished release. ‘Woman Worldwide’ saw Justice sticking to their usual live template, with just one significant change. The duo decided their third live album wouldn’t actually be live. Gone was the crowd noise, and what replaced it was a pristine studio performance. Instead of a live album, ‘Woman Worldwide’ should be seen as a remix album, the perfect bookend for the duo’s 10-year career so far. And with a Grammy nomination, it could see Justice picking up their biggest accolade to date.

Various Artists - 'Ed Banger 15 Ans' (2018)

Now I know what you’re thinking: dance music orchestras are lame and have already been done to death. And that’s generally true (depending on the material of course), but for Ed Banger’s 15th anniversary, Pedro Winter decided to unleash his label’s back-catalog on a 70-piece orchestra — and the results were incredible. The way Justice’s iconic melodies were confronted by the rough sounds of SebastiAn, and the way Boston Bun’s house music and Breakbot’s funk were brought together, was a stroke of artistic genius and deserves to be in any Ed Banger fan’s collection.

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