Even the more cynical detractors can't deny that Ed Banger's "imperial phase"—that stretch of time during which the label's very ethos was encapsulated by, and distilled through, a series of fully formed and federative releases—was impressive. From Theme from Vicarious Bliss in 2005 to A.D.D. S.U.V. in 2010 (without even mentioning Justice's first rounds of distinctive cuts) the Parisian stable had a firm hold on the mid-'00s so-called French electro trend. But these days, you can really sense Pedro Winter's desire to expand his brand and offer a more varied palette—Mickey Moonlight, for instance, who gave Ed Banger its first trip into cosmic territory earlier this year.
Also in this vein is Thibaut Berland, AKA Breakbot, Ed Banger's latest recruit. On By Your Side, his first long-player after a few low-key singles and remixes, Breakbot stays as far as possible from SebastiAn's sonic lacerations; he opts instead for Off the Wall nods, second-rate attempts at digitalized funk à la Discovery-era Daft punk, and Justin Timberlake's modern-day soul. It all makes for an amusing diversion, for sure, but not necessarily a substantial one.
These aesthetics are perfectly exemplified by songs like "Fantasy" and "Why," which are exactly what Timberlake would record if he brought his Michael Jackson impersonations back to life for Halloween. Yet those inclinations work better on instrumental cuts like "Intersection" and "Programme" as they both channel 1970s soft porn soundtracks and carefree sha-la-las. Elsewhere, like on the lifeless "By Your Side Part 1" or "A Mile Away," it's hard to know what the album's numerous guests (Ruckazoid, Pacific!, Irfane) contributed to the Breakbot sound, which comes across in the end as a collage of Chromeo, Lionel Ritchie and Prince's eponymous album circa 1979. In that regard, the Bromance crew (Brodinski, Club Cheval, Gesaffelsteinare) are building a more convincing attempt at taking the first-wave French electro heritage and pushing it into uncharted territories. With By Your Side, Ed Banger and Breakbot seem more and more lost in a Tumblr-tinged display of self-referencing: very now but just not very new.