For Justice’s Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, music isn’t an immutable monolith, but rather a living, breathing organism that’s constantly evolving. For over a decade, the duo has hewn sweaty dance rhapsodies out of the influences of disco, funk, and heavy metal, branding their idiosyncratically ornate house music with a trademark cross emblem. This sort of irreverence is epitomized not only by the band’s antics (their 2008 concert film A Cross the Universe documents Augé’s Las Vegas marriage to a groupie he’d known for all of three hours), but also by their willingness to test the limits of live electronic music, as evidenced on Woman Worldwide, a collection of studio recordings based on reinvented live versions of their songs.
Being stripped of the fleeting spontaneity and energy of a live concert isn’t wholly to the album’s detriment. Augé and de Rosnay, after all, built their career on remixes of Britney Spears, Daft Punk, and N.E.R.D., so they know a thing or two about reimagining the work of others, but it’s a treat to hear them turn their reconstructionist eye on their own material.
The most compelling reworks on Woman Worldwide hinge on heightened drama, brought on by more spacious beats and prolonged drop buildups. “Safe and Sound” provides more in the way of sensory thrills than the original version, with a slap bass that’s so laden with distortion it almost sounds like a synth, and a whirring during the pre-hook that rises in pitch like a rollercoaster. Justice’s hit “D.A.N.C.E.” is reworked to sound like a post-apocalyptic rave, kicking off with ardent keyboards and cinematic strings before culminating in an earthshaking crescendo.
Disappointingly, several tracks are too similar to their original incarnations. Aside from a more saturated synth lead and the omission of a bewitching guitar lick, “Stop” is almost indistinguishable from the 2016 original; “Love S.O.S” suffers from the same dilemma, its only notable change being the foregrounding of supporting synths at the song’s end. These alterations are so slight that they call into question the point of recording new versions at all. At 16 tracks, Woman Worldwide at times feels like an inexplicable rehash of existing material—a time-filler while Justice plots their next studio reinvention.