Four years ago, Justice was the black-leather-jacket-clad second coming of French dance music. Even more Daft Punk-sounding than Daft Punk itself (circa 2007, anyway), the young production duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay deftly established themselves as hard-rocking, grandstanding partiers with their exceptional debut, the quizzically named †. The symbolic exhalation seems ironic now, as † has become somewhat of a cross to bear for Justice, the high-set bar for which all subsequent releases would have to reach and surpass. It shouldn’t surprise, then, that Audio, Video, Disco seems so underwhelming on first listen. It isn’t a bad record, it’s just a really different one.
Gone are the club-ready bangers and 12-inch singles. What Justice offers instead is a fully realized arena-rock album for the electronic set. Call it next-rave, a synth-heavy prog record just as concerned with guitar riffage as it is with blowing up the dance floor. And while Audio, Video, Disco sees the pair trying new things—like playing actual instruments—it’s far from being a typical band-oriented effort. The filtered vocals—ethereal and chant-like at parts, chorus-minded and driving at others—seem to be embellishes more than focal points. Likewise, the “live” instruments are handled in a modern computer-age way, recorded and sampled, then processed and sampled again. Justice is, after all, still just two guys with a lot of hardware. And what Audio, Video, Disco does best is show off what a pair of good producers can really do—namely, simplifying technical musicianship into head-throbbing dance music.