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Posted on September 7th, 2013 (8:15 am) by Chase Woodruff

At first glance, it seems odd that the EDM explosion has closely coincided with a decline in the stature of French electronic duo Justice. In the aftermath of their acclaimed 2007 debut, , Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay were the toast of hipster capitals on two continents and deans of a burgeoning electro-house niche home to the likes of Digitalism, Boys Noize, the Presets, MSTRKRFT, and others, none of whom you’ve likely heard much about in the last four years. How could the guys behind the inescapable, movement-defining “D.A.N.C.E.” have disappeared from dance floors entirely?

The answer came in the form of 2011’s Audio, Video, Disco, and the answer was this: Justice aren’t really a dance act at all. Their sophomore effort was a somewhat bizarre forty-minute homage to late ’70s prog rock, the sunny, treble-boosted yin to its predecessor’s foreboding, warehouse-ready yang. At the very height of the brostep craze, AVD tried to sell listeners on syrupy guitar-driven jams that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Yes compilation; the reaction wasn’t so much negative as it was politely puzzled (or, in many cases, simply nonexistent).

In the unenviable task of having to bridge the gap between the duo’s first and second studio efforts, Justice’s second live album, Access All Arenas, does astonishingly well—so well, in fact, that it rebukes the conventional wisdom about Justice altogether, raising the distinct possibility that Augé and de Rosnay have known exactly what they’re doing all along. Recorded in July 2012 at the Arena of Nîmes, (Is there a setting more appropriate for Justice’s thematic grandiosity than a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheatre?) Access is uncommonly liberal in its use of crowd noise. It’s a trick that might seem cheap on a lesser record, but here the electricity provides a vital clarification: the guys on stage may be using Macbooks and Minimoogs, but this is a rock show, damn it.

That Access begins not with the famous modulated warhorns of “Genesis” but with a guitar wailing the opening notes to Bach’s Toccata in D Minor neatly distills a new unified theory of Justice: extravagant, mawkishly neoclassical, and totally, contagiously serious. These are the through-lines that make it possible for two very different records to be stitched together as effectively as they are. It’s a prosperous marriage; ’s gloom-and-doom monoliths benefit from a little levity, while AVD’s bright, riffy joyrides gain some needed heft from the duo’s bass-heavy Marshall stacks.

Justice don’t mash their catalogue together quite as relentlessly as a certain other pair of French DJs might, but they provide more than enough deconstruction and flair to keep things interesting. Some experiments work better than others; the cloying, compulsive sampling of Simian’s “Never Be Alone” continues to ever-diminishing returns. But as with any great concertgoing experience, the only real issues with Access are what it leaves out. So iconic is that the omissions like “Tthhee Ppaarrttyy” and “One Minute to Midnight,” though inevitable in an eighty-minute live set, loom large. But to leave listeners hungry for more is undoubtedly all part of the plan.

Track List:
1. Genesis
2. Helix
3. Phantom
4. Civilization
5. Canon
6. D.A.N.C.E.
7. Horsepower
8. New Lands
9. Stress
10. Waters of Nazareth
11. Audio, Video, Disco.
12. Encore
13. On 'n' On
14. Phantom, Pt. 2

Justice Access All Arenas album cover
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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