It was the year 2007, and dance music was at a crossroads.
On one side: the synthesized, instrumental rhythms of underground dance, created by dominantly faceless producers to feed a global yet dwindling network of touring DJs. On the other: mashup artists like DJ AM and a bevy of imitators, making everything from "Sweet Home Alabama" to "Oops! ...I Did It Again" into dancefloor fodder, frequently in the celebrity-packed VIP lounges of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Then came Justice. That same year, the French duo released debut album "Cross," a cocksure, Daft Punk-influenced feast of house and electro, peppered with poppery like the hit single "D.A.N.C.E." True to its name, Cross kindled the notion that dance music's two paths need not be so divergent after all.
Nearly five years later, hundreds of thousands of festival-goers are dancing to both the radio pop of David Guetta and the dubstep rage of Skrillex. So it only seems right that Justice-producer/DJs Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge-is back with its second album, "Audio, Video, Disco" (Vice/Ed Banger/Because Music/Elektra), out Oct. 25.
Video: Justice, "Audio, Video, Disco"
"Audio, Video, Disco" takes all of the '70s references of the duo's debut across town, from the disco of nightclubs to the prog-rock of arenas. "Horsepower" opens the album with singeing power chords, "Brianvision" piles on the harmonics, and "Parade" even offers up a "We Will Rock You" stomp-stomp-clap. "The first album was really about samples-proper electronic music. Chop it, reverse it, put some effect on it and put it in the computer," Winter says. "This album is all played guitar, drums and keys, which gives it a different feeling."
At first listen, it might sound like satire. But Auge says that's not the point. "We're helpless romantics," he says. "[We] always have to go a tiny bit over the top in terms of emotions, but it's never parody. We make music in a very naïve and sincere way."
The album reconnects the Justice team with Vice Records, which successfully released "Cross" in the United States as part of a Warner Bros. distribution deal through Atlantic Records. (It has sold 134,000 copies and 768,000 single downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.) When the deal dissolved, Justice bounced to Downtown, which then moved to Universal, temporarily leaving the pair without a label home. Now, Vice is back in the Warner fold.
"That was all about politics and business," says Pedro Winter, the band's manager and head of Ed Banger. "But the band and myself requested to be linked with Vice again, for sentimental reasons. And we have a lot in common: We're the same ages, we're open-minded, hardworking, we grew up listening to hip-hop and are passionate about electronic music and alternative culture-in France we call it counterculture."
Video: Justice, "Civilization"
The new album's first single, "Civilization," has already been featured in an Adidas TV spot, garnering more than 1 million YouTube views for the commercial and 1.5 million for the track's Edouard Salier-directed video, which features animated buffalo attempting to escape the apocalypse.
While Justice's new sound is more instrument-based, the group doesn't intend to tour as a live band-which means that its raucous DJ shows, documented lasciviously in the 2008 DVD documentary "A Cross the Universe," will hit a market already buzzing for dance music. ( Justice's set at Vice's recent Creator's Project was shut down by New York police.) Yet for Auge, that's incidental.
"We ended up in the dance circuit almost by accident," he says. "When we do albums, they're more meant to be home-listened, hopefully a few times. When we DJ, we play party music for what it is-[to make] people dance."