At this point in their careers, it's clear that Daft Punk have nothing to lose. They represent a mythic rarity in the landscape of music today. One where their legacy is essentially understood and widely accepted to the point of redundancy. Everyone knows how instrumental the group has been in popularizing and subsequently perfecting wildly entertaining dance music. Homework
were incredibly important in making French house music more accessible than it had been in the past. Those albums indisputably represented the mainstream embrace of electronica, an infatuation that continues to this day. Following the release of Human After All
and its earth-shattering tour, Daft Punk had crafted the definitive 21st Century statement for themselves. During that time, the group was able to synthesize the best ideas they had tried in the past into a wholly formed culmination of their artistic principles. In the years that followed, the group seemed content to let their work speak for itself, as countless ideas that they were responsible for introducing to popular music culture became common trends. EDM festivals such as Electric Zoo tried to replicate the sheer sense of event that DP's 2007 Alive tour possessed in essence, if not spirit. We witnessed the rise of the Vocoder, Auto-Tune, and synthesizers as a serious presence on the charts.
Recognizing that Daft Punk have already taken House music to the literal extremes of its potential is necessary in posing the ever important question concerning where they go from here. Daft Punk have always been a calculating bunch, and as previously stated, each of their past studio albums have set new benchmarks for what should be expected of them. If Human After All
was to be the last Daft Punk album, many people would have been content. Still, never willing to rest on their laurels for too long, Daft Punk have returned with Random Access Memories
, a step in a wholly different direction. Much of the fanfare surrounding album stems from the incredible amount of goodwill that the group has established in their illustrious career. Regardless of however the music ended up sounding, people were going to care a great deal simply because this is a Daft Punk album. Random Access Memories
finds the group flexing this freedom in startling ways. Beyond their unique and well planned approach to marketing this record, where the band essentially kept the music away from those who wanted it most with the promise of eventually unleashing it on our ears (we see you WeeWa, Australia), the music also projects a markedly different ideology in terms of their sound.
Yes, they still sound like robots. Don't let the crystal clear vocal tracks of "Get Lucky" fool you, the record contains plenty of Auto-Tune. However, the difference from their previous use of this tool, lies in its juxtaposition with instrumentation. Random Access Memories
is by far the most organic sounding album Daft Punk has ever made. Anyone who has followed the online series of The Collaborators
, a project posted to their website featuring in depth interviews of the artists who worked on the album, will tell you that DP intended to work with live instrumentation from the outset. In this approach, R.A.M.
is somewhat of a contradiction. On one hand, it serves as an experiment, where Daft Punk explore the possibilities for other styles outside of French House. On the other side of that coin, the album is so meticulously organized that it could be hardly considered a departure from their past work. If anyone had any doubts about DP's studio mastery, I highly suggest listening to opening track "Give Life Back to Music" a song that bridges that gap between super-sized stadium power rock, gentle funk, and disco over the course of four and a half minutes.
Part of what makes this so exhilarating is just how good
the moving parts of these songs sound in the mix. The tonality of the guitar, drums, and bass are so glassy and smooth, it needs to be heard to be believed. Almost all of the tracks of Random Access Memories
are laden with lush sparkles of percussion and clean layers. This is precision at its finest. Everything is incredibly warm, spacious, and surprisingly complex. Whether they like it or not, Daft Punk Have created a headphone album. Things get particularly interesting on Random Access Memories
when they abandon traditional song structure in favor of expansive audio design. "Giorgio by Moroder" is a self-referential song that primarily consists of a monologue delivered by the composer himself, where he reflects on the importance of the musical process in his life. Exploring his perspective on different kinds of sound brings the listener to an understanding about the mission statement of the album. The 60s and 70s are the primary focus, as evidenced by the jazz fusion improv section in the middle of the song that eventually transforms into a breakdown of epic percussive proportion. This voice over track is just one example where Daft Punk explores sound art on their album. Much of robo-ballad "Within" is directed towards the cold and unemotional experience of androids in search of meaning. Daft Punk desperately attempt to get in touch with something, anything that will make them feel again. In that sense, Random Access Memories
is a complete and total success.
Random Access Memories
is due out May 21st, and it can be pre-orders/streamed in full here