Gaspard Augé - one-half of Justice - dropped a solo record, and it's a French electro dream
If nothing else, Escapades - the debut solo album from Gaspard Augé - provides insight into the mind of one of dance music's pioneers.
Header image by Jasper J. Spanning.
The legacy of French electronic duo Justice is deserving of a feature-length article in itself. The pairing of Gaspard Augé and Xavier De Rosnay have pioneered dance music's growth and evolution over the last decade, emerging from the depths of France's notorious dance music scene in 2004 and building themselves a platform as one of the country's most notorious dance acts in the time since. To get a grasp on Justice's impact, all you have to do is ask any dance producer - I can guarantee you that each and every one of them would list Justice as one of their key influences.
It's an accolade the pairing are deserving of, too. Justice is inarguably the defining artist of the bloghouse era of dance music - the rough around the edges club music that became pivotal in the mid-to-late 2000s - and that niche pocket of dance music made an impact that's felt over a decade later in the grittier dance music and house movements still ongoing. Much like artists such as now-defunct Daft Punk did for them, Justice have also inspired a wealth of dance music in France itself; the country's stronghold on the genre remaining prevalent through its exciting next generation.
From Cross in 2007 and Audio, Video, Disco in 2011 to Woman in 2016, the connection and relationship between Gaspard Augé and Xavier De Rosnay has remained integral to each of Justice's releases. Their production skill sets merge to create maximalist masterpieces, and on the live stage, it's a connection that shows itself without a single word to the crowd; their last appearance in Australia - for Sydney City Limits in 2018 - seeing the pair move around the stage to controllers and mixers, releasing not a single peep for the entirety of the performance's duration.
In 2019, the pair won a GRAMMY Award for Woman Worldwide, a remix package of Woman that came out a few years following. To them, it closed the chapter of the album and opened the doors to their forthcoming material, whatever that may look like. "We must have done something right," says Gaspard Augé in a statement accompanying a new release we're going to talk about in two, short seconds. "And so we felt 'Okay, so now we can close this chapter'."
As it turns out, the closing of that chapter created the room for Gaspard to begin work of a solo album of his own, written while himself and Xavier began toying around with their next steps as a pair. Escapades is the final result, a 12-track exploration of Gaspard's mind and musicianship that heralds the pinnacles of Justice's sound, but on a more intimate and personal level for Gaspard who now, is occupying the spotlight by himself for the first time.
The sessions that became Escapades brought an opportunity for the producer to experiment and mould his sound into a new vision; an opportunity for Gaspard to explore the depths of his sound with full creative freedom, and without the limitations, expectations and accompanying overthinking that being in one of dance music's most notorious duos can bring. It sees Gaspard Augé's individuality thrive, encapsulating his long-standing relationship with dance music and how he shows that through his work, much like Justice has always done albeit with the added inclusions of Xavier, and his own imprint on the duo.
On the surface level, Escapades lives and breathes as if a Justice album would. It's a dynamic and rushing display of maximalism, capturing the same intense grit and rawness that Justice have become recognised for over their careers. The album is entirely instrumental - again, in line with the majority of Justice's work - and instead tells its stories through the cinematic and orchestral journies that dance amongst its thick-cut maximalism, avoiding the reliance on vocals that have become somewhat standard even for dance music; something that Gaspard is seemingly growing aware of.
"I was a bit fed up with the obsession that people have with making hits," he says in the album's bio, detailing the thoughts and reflections of dance music that paved the creation for Escapades' sound. "There’s so much posturing that comes with singing in pop and hip-hop. It started to feel dishonest to me."
Escapades is anything but a dishonest album, and in fact, it's an album that positions Justice as a gleaming light of authenticity amongst dance music. If, for example, Gaspard was to emerge with an album far removed from the musical universe of Justice, it would perhaps raise questions about the continuing sound of the duo, and the weighting of each member's own tastes within the duo. Escapades, however, sounds like a Justice album in the best ways; solidifying their imprint on their dance music niche, and proving that their sound is something both Gaspard and Xavier live and breathe, even when removed from each other.
Escapades, however, is Gaspard's time to shine - and he certainly does on the record. It's an album that sees evolution and growth to what we'd perhaps expect from a solo record from one-half of Justice, capturing the heart of Gaspard's sound regardless of the project and showing how it continues to dance with experimentalism and production prowess, especially in its infusing with everything from Italian horror opera to cinematic orchestras that nestle their way into the limelight of Escapades' maximalism.
It's one hell of an album, and for everybody like us eagerly awaiting the next move from one of dance music's best, Escapades is sure to fill the hole, and solidify Gaspard Augé notoriety within dance music in the process of doing so.
Take a dive into the album below:
Gaspard Augé's debut solo album Escapades is out now via Ed Banger Records / Because Music / Virgin Music Australia.
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