Justice rose to fame on the back of two very different breakaway singles. “We Are Your Friends” was a house-influenced golden moment of perfection with an insanely catchy vocal and an unrelenting, driving bass. “Waters of Nazareth” (which is included on Cross, the band’s debut full-length) was built around a jarring, buzz-saw synth, focusing more on a complex, articulate arrangement. In that respect, it comes as no surprise that on Cross Parisians Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge would explore both sides of their sound. As inhabitants of the electronic-music world, they could easily have taken the safe route and crafted surefire dance-floor singles. Instead, they wholeheartedly immerse themselves in developing a round, unified statement without compromise.
For the most part, Cross‘s tracks either feature Justice’s/Ed Banger’s trademark grimy, menacing synth or a bright pop arrangement. Of the poppier tracks, only a few feature actual singing; the rest include cut-up, fragmented human voices. Attempting to follow the progression of the vocal splicing of “New Jack” and “Phantom” is an adventure that warrants repeated listens. “DVNO” is the highpoint, with a prominent vocal and slinking funky bass line, evolving its anthemic chorus through multiple breathtaking a cappella breaks. On the synth-driven numbers, Justice does not rely too heavily on the abrasive, obtrusive trademark synth, skillfully layering each song with an assortment of grandiose strings, earthy bass, rapid-fire kick drums, and electronic noise.
Perhaps the most successful aspect of Cross is its appeal on both the dance floor and the headphones, the pounding rhythms complemented by the nuanced detail of the arrangements and unified flow of mood. The sequencing hits emotional peaks and valleys — resulting in a whole, affecting experience. “D.A.N.C.E.” is the perfect example of Justice’s triumph. Where else can a song’s least memorable moment be a children’s chorus of chanting vocals? Digging into the arrangement, it is bafflingly good — a perfect, weaving combination of keyboard, guitar, strings, bass and melodic progression. Justice’s music is full of this: pop hooks that don’t stale, synths so layered and expertly arranged that their abrasiveness eventually soothes. This is music designed to move you, both body and mind.