Read Ben Cardew’s review of the album.

If EDM had been created in the 1970s, it might have sounded like Escapades, the debut album from Gaspard Augé, better known as one half of French electronic duo Justice. Like EDM, Escapades is utterly in thrall to scale, an album of colossal gestures; like 70s prog, it shows warm eccentricity and extreme melodic prowess. Escapades is, by some distance, the most ridiculous electronic album released so far this year, a giddy tour de force unrestrained by common sense or conventional tastes.
In the wrong hands, this improbable stew could have been stomach-churning. But Justice, Augés alma mater, have a history of turning the preposterous into the potent. Justices innovation in the 00s was to turn rock musics most ludicrous ideasvast Marshall stacks and handlebar moustaches, the childrens choir on D.A.N.C.Einto an unlikely breath of fresh air for a European electronic music scene still recovering from the excesses of the late 90s. Escapades proves that Augé has learned well from the day job.
The album is less abrasive in tone than the early Justice records that defined the duos soundits incredibly sleek, for all its volume. But it maintains the spirit of Justices debut album, : unabashed and unshackled, dance music stripped of the finicky trend-watching. Force majeure, the second track, builds to a climax of drum rolls and meaty synth lines that could level Shea Stadium; Rocambole, one track later, ends with an echoing piano note that appears to reference the Beatles A Day in the Lifethe kind of cheekily audacious, go-big-or-go-home pop plunder that can trigger a sharp intake of breath.
Escapades isnt entirely stuck in a time warp. Rocambole takes equal influence from 70s Elton John and producer Alan Braxe, a kind of Harold Faltermeyer for the French touch generation; Pentacle is reminiscent of Airs proggy masterpiece 10,000 Hz Legend; and the ultra triumphant Hey! is contemporary only in so much as it references the same Giorgio Moroder records as so many current house records. On the whole, though, Escapades floats around in a singular universe of its own invention, like dance music whose only points of reference are Paul and Linda McCartneys Live and Let Die and campy magic shows.
Escapades is maximalist to its core, but this isnt maximalism in the Rustie or Venetian Snares sense of many things happening at once. Rather, every element is primed for enormitya sandwich packed with hefty slabs of prime rib, rather than the sensory overload of experimental modern cooking. The albums basic sound comprises synths, drums, and comically serpentine bass. But Augé and collaborators Victor le Masne and Michael Declerck spent a long time improving the sound of Augés original demos, availing themselves of the technological dreamland that is the late Philippe Zdars Motorbass studio. Escapades sounds gorgeous throughout: big but not overbearing; tender but not cloying.
The records melodies are also excellent. Much like Daft Punks Discovery (or, to a lesser extent, Justices third album, Woman), Augé calls on the European baroque tradition, as re-interpreted through prog rock or ABBA. For a largely instrumental record, Escapades is packed to the hilt with sharp hooks and clever melodic tricks, like Captain swerving in and out of a melancholy descending chord progression, or the operatic mid-section of Belladone, which sounds like a disco flip of Pink Floyds The Great Gig in the Sky.
At moments like these, you may find yourself singing along to the most unlikely of elements, twanging air bass with gusto and looking completely ridiculous. But what Escapades teaches us, more than anything, is that Adam Ant was right when he said that ridicule is nothing to be scared of. Augé may be hip, the kind of artist who can inspire a generation of club kids to sweat their brains out in ill-fitting leather jackets. But like all true style mavens, he knows that real panache exists at the opposite extreme from accepted notions of cool. Escapades is entirely in line with this gleeful approach, guilelessly reaching beyond musical norms to seek out ecstasy in the patently absurd.
Buy: Rough Trade
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