Why Electro’s Exacting Duo Justice Wanted to Break Its Own Rules

The sun was setting on the opening night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend and the mood backstage in Justice’s artist compound was simmering anxiety, masked by glasses of wine and discrete vaping.

In a few hours, the Paris-based electronic music duo would debut an all-new stage show and give fans an early taste of “Hyperdrama,” its new studio album, out April 26. The setting was meaningful: Justice played its first real show at Coachella in 2007 just before releasing “Cross,” the album that propelled it to the forefront of the electro scene, and this appearance would be its first big concert since 2018.

In the eight years since Justice’s “Woman” LP arrived, dance music subgenres have risen and fallen in favor, yet the pair has remained indifferent, focused strictly on its own trajectory. “Hyperdrama,” a 13-track album with guest appearances by Miguel, Thundercat and Tame Impala, riffs on its longtime aesthetic — melodic hooks, funky bass lines, the occasional blown-out fuzzy beat — and stretches out in fresh ways.

Though Justice’s Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay were joined by friends and former collaborators, many of whom had flown in from France, the two remained on the fringes of the backstage gathering, periodically conferring with their longtime lighting designer, Vincent Lérisson, or Pedro Winter, the manager who discovered them in the early 2000s. The new show is a complex production built largely around Lérisson’s massive, swirling display, which took over 18 months to create and involves 11 tons of lights and kinetic motors on trusses. Justice prides itself on its precision, and knew there were hundreds of things that could go wrong.

The pair finally took the stage just before 10:30 p.m. and faced each other in Celine suits and sunglasses, unleashing intertwining grooves from across its discography. Songs from “Hyperdrama,” like the four-on-the-floor thump of “Neverender” and the relentless “Generator,” fit seamlessly with “D.A.N.C.E.,” the buoyant single that earned its first Grammy nominations, and the scuzzy strut of “Phantom.”

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