DISCO VÉRITÉ Justice

The French electronic duo just wanna make you feel. They
kicked off a high profile North American tour last weekend.

 BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

One doesn’t
immediately think of serious issues when considering Justice. France’s arena
rock-worthy electronic duo – Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay – have spent a
decade refining their compressed distorted synth sound and choppily cut bass
lines for maximum dance floor effect. Certainly their hard dark first album
(the cross symbol †) and their latest release,
the softer sunnier Audio, Video, Disco,
both benefit from big bass and rock grandeur with but the sonorousness of
quietude to set them elegantly apart.

 

Yet, several weeks before the new
album is set to drop, reality sets in and the pair must consider the life
cycle. First, their close buddy DJ Mehdi passed away in September, killed in a
freak accident during a roof collapse. A little over one week after that, de
Rosnay and his girlfriend had a baby daughter, which sent Augé scurrying to London to be with the happy trio after the
birth.

 

“So far, we’re
good,” says Augé, his thick accent and friendly demeanor most prominent as he
talks about the light stuff of readying a live show that promises to be as
boldly unique as the tour following †’s release (and documented on the live DVD
A Cross the Universe). Push a
little bit more, something personal about his tumultuous month and his insight
into the circle of life trailing behind him, and he stiffens quickly. “I don’t
know… it is for me… nothing to comment about,” he says solemnly.

 

Shifting gears
quickly, this writer mentions how the decade of being Justice started with the
pair making tracks together for Musclorvision’s Hits Up To You compilation where each tune was meant to sound as if
it was designed for the Eurovision song contest. The compilation used two of
their songs, and one tune from Augé’s alter-ego Microloisir. Now that gets Augé
to laughing. “That was a pretty funny start,” he says.  “It’s would be tough to pick one thing that
was so great about getting together. We’ve been
really joyous since our start and
I think that reflects on our
music.” One thing he does focus on was the first time
the pair did drugs together. It was mushrooms. “Now that was
a rich experience,” he snorts.

 

Psilocybin and dance
music aside, Justice’s gents are cautious careful types. After they gained
notoriety for the dirty 2003 remix of Simian’s “Never Be Alone” and
were immediately signing by Ed Banger’s label, it took four more years to
release the debut album and another four years after that to drop Audio, Video,
Disco
. Augé claims that the pair gets drained by touring, doing tracks
for other artists and games and taking on the occasional solo effort.
“Actually, recording the new album took a year and three months, the same the
last album took.” Cautious perhaps not, but exacting, perhaps.

 

“We are never as
good as when we are together,” laughs Augé. “We just have to wait for the right moment.” Despite the
precise nature and hermetic feel of the two albums, the new AVD is far less so despite
its hearty level of programming. Once within the
walls of tracks like the epic
“Civilization” you can
hear the instinctual thrust, a raw-ness
at work.

 

“Thank you for noticing. It’s good that you feel it. We wanted to get rid of the production tricks, especially the ones we had developed on that first record,” says Augé, focusing on †’s
very distortion and overt compression that made it popular. The new thing is softer,
quieter and way more spacious than the crushingly electro-cramped first album.
“We wanted to make this record more loose and spare so to create a new kind of proximity to the music, for us and the audience. When we
make music, we are not over thinking it. We’re just trying to provide
something simple and with straight emotions. We always make music in a very naïve way.  We feel
nothing for over the top anything. We want no parody elements in our music.”

 

Justice,
according to Augé, think of Audio, Video, Disco,
as a modern
pop record without tricks, one
whose main concern is to make people feel. Whether it’s a sensation of melancholy, happiness or anger, Justice wants you to feel
it. To an extent, this is why the duo decided to record the new effort in a
basement without scads of equipment. They wanted it to be homemade
music. “We don’t have elaborate demanding needs for
space or equipment,” he says. “We spent a few months trading
old stuff for new older equipment. We didn’t have sound engineers approach the music. It’s just us. And we don’t know that much.”

 

Augé loves the
fact that they are studio rookies. If you know too
much about something in their estimation it sounds like it.
The sound then is un-instant. “You lose some personal style and freshness
when you are too good at something,” he says.

 

The softer
quieter spacious arrangements of AVD was certainly new to Justice. They wanted
to feel the air in the room, the air around the instruments. In order to achieve
that the pair had to change their way
of writing and working. Nothing cluttered. “For first
time ever, we used short samples in our arrangements that
made something sound twice produced. We wrote in a very classical way on piano, guitar and bass. We
kept the tracks arid and sparse so
to add layers of harmonies.”

 

Justice wanted to
balance the minimal production-“less in-your-face than the last record, but still assertive”-with maximal music. Pointless as it was to
do things the same way as they had on their debut album, Justice ditched the compressed
distorted sound that made it their aggressive “night time” album. “Instead we
made this new one our daytime disc,” says Augé. “Something open, airy, romantic and way more about a
country side than a dark dance club.”

 

An edited version of this story originally
appeared in BLURT 11.

 

 

[Photo Credit:
Paul Heartfield]

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