Ever since Justice’s epoch-defining 2007 debut + was followed up by Audio, Video, Disco, it has been clear that the French duo were more committed to proggy song structures and live instrumentation than club bangers. Gaspard Augé consolidates this approach with his debut solo record, a dynamic, ostentatious ode to the ’70s with all the kitsch that entails.
Escapades opens with a couple of uptempo, episodic tracks: BBC Sport’s Euro 2020 intro music theme Force Majeure with its heroic chord sequence and chugging pedal note bass, then Rocambole with its shortening motifs and fantastically intense crescendo (even after all these years, Augé’s music still very much thrives at high volumes).
Belladone has a similarly dramatic flair, a slamming beat under a soaring melody and judicious use of retriggered samples, while the more downtempo tunes alternate between mystery and beauty in beguiling fashion.
A good example of the latter is Casablanca, with strings and flutes trilling a melody that is utterly shameless in its schmaltz, and Europa’s pacing, brooding ball of melodrama serves as the yin to Casablanca’s yang. In this sense Augé increasingly resembles Eminem in the final 8 Mile battle: he’s aware of everything you might not like about the record and has included these things anyway, to spite you.
Lacrimosa is the catchiest tune on Escapades, its sparkling melody sitting nicely over a simplistic 6/8 thud, but closing track Reverie really steals the show. A wide-eyed sense of trepidation outlined by the modal harpsichord figure, as if we are really only at the beginning of some odyssean quest. A shrill synth lead, yawning bass and militaristic marching drums build an inexorable wall of sound, culminating in… nothing, a cliffhanger of sorts.
Captivating in all its eccentricities, evocative and groovy in equal measure, with this album Augé well and truly proves himself as an artist in his own right.