Though they’ve played a lot of the same music festivals over the years and have had equally positive showings on the dance music charts around the world, Justice somehow still exists in the shadow of another beloved French electronic duo. What has been missing it seems is that one big crossover moment like Daft Punk had at Coachella 2006. The kind of viral event that is still being breathlessly talked about over a decade later.
Which puts an album like Woman Worldwide in a curious place for producer/DJs Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay. This pseudo live recording—essentially a studio-born recreation of the setlist from the duo’s 2017 world tour—is every bit the equal of Daft Punk’s bracing, Grammy-nominated Alive 2007 release. It often feels like it might even better than 11 year old album as this 90 minute set stands firmly on its own, free of that nagging feeling that it would sound even better if accompanied by a fancy light show or surrounded by a few thousand people.
Woman Worldwide plays, instead, like a great DJ set or the ultimate remix album. Augé and de Rosnay spent many hours picking tracks from their three studio albums, or lifting their favorite moments from other tunes. From there, they sweated over remixing the songs and mashing things together to create a flow and maintaining a consistent energy that would keep audiences engaged and, most of all, dancing through it all.
While this isn’t technically a live performance, this new collection from Justice does have all the hallmarks of one. It treats their existing work as if it is still raw material to be molded to match their current interests and moods. That way a song like the title track to their 2011 album Audio, Video, Disco can be given a much harder edge, or they can smooth out the rougher synth bleats on “Waters of Nazareth” so as to better work in the details of their 2006 remix of Simian’s “Never Be Alone.” Everything is possible and everything is up for grabs.
And, naturally, they crank up the intensity to better fill the PA systems of a massive festival or venue, which brings a layer of colorful rust to the sleek tunes from their most recent album Woman. Intentional or not, it feels like it corrects some of the tactical errors that befell that decent but unsteady work. It also shows a remarkable level of confidence that Justice dispensed with their most recognizable song “D.A.N.C.E.” early in the set. You either stick it out and see where they’re going or pull the ripcord now.
By recreating this live set in the studio, Justice has also allowed themselves to rewrite the history of this tour on their own terms. Their previous live albums were knowingly bootleg quality, delighting in the flubs and technical issues that come with even the most well-rehearsed performances. Nothing is left to chance here and both listener and artist are now free to imagine a 90 minute shot of perfection, where every transition is smooth and every dance step is executed with ease. We could all use those moments to dream of a unsullied world, if only for small stretches before getting back to the otherwise messy reality we’re in.