On trial: second disc from French electro-rock duo Justice
Dance duo Justice, who back in 2007 put the French electro music scene on the map, launch their new album on Monday, "Audio, Video, Disco", hoping to match the runaway success of their debut.
Their first effort, the strangely titled "+" accompanied by monolithic images of Christian-style crosses, a controversial video and the hit dance tune "D.A.N.C.E.", reminiscent of the Jackson Five, sold a hefty 800,000 copies.
"We don't know the recipe for the success of the first album," Gaspard Auge, one half of the duo, told AFP.
"It was extreme, in the sense that there were bits that were very aggressive and one bit of disco sung by children. So we had more or less a free hand to what we wanted to on the next one," he added.
The new album is a bid to break with the conventional ideas associated with their kind of music, he said.
"Electronic music has always been presented as urban, night music," he continued. "We wanted to move away from this idea a little, making a more rural, more luminous record."
To get that sound, the group decided not to use any samples in "Audio, Video, Disco" -- the Latin for "I hear, I see, I learn".
They even played the drums and guitar parts themselves -- and as both Auge and Xavier de Rosnay, the other half of the duo, admit they are far from being virtuosos.
The idea was to go for a sound like a rehearsal, "so you can almost hear the room where the instruments have been recorded, which is a bit antithetical to electronic music, where everything is done by computer," said Auge.
And in another move away for what he says has become the norm for electro records, the new disc features no celebrity guests on the vocal tracks -- they just did not think it helped the creative process.
"We sang ourselves, or got people we really like to become the third member, the voice of Justice," he explained.
"What we liked is that the whole record can give the impression of having been sung by the same person," he added.
The new album is a high-energy mix that hits the ground running, with the first two tracks, "Horsepower" and "Civilisation" intended as "a bridge to the rest of the record", while keeping elements of the earlier work.
With the third track, "Ohio", suggests a range of influences: from the close-harmony vocals of 1960s legends Crosby, Stills and Nash, to the heavy riffs of Aussie rockers AC/DC --and even a nod to Queen.
And Auge makes no apologies for such eclecticism.
"We had fun putting in references to other groups without it being the heart of the track...," he said.
"We are children of the 1990s. We grew up with MTV and our influences run from Prodigy to Justin Timberlake.
"For us, there are no guilty pleasures, no shameful music so long as it moves us," he said.
And yet despite taking a very different approach from their first album, every track in "Audio, Video, Disco" carries the group's instantly recognisable musical signature.
"Perhaps it's a question of emotional colour," he said.
"We are always trying to move between the melancholy and the epic. And we do everything as a duo" another reason Justice has such a recognisable sound, he suggests.
© 2011 AFP