I doubt I’m alone in thinking that everything currently careering off the pop music production line is looking a bit lacklustre next to Daft Punk. Yes, you may be the hottest new boy band, suited and booted in your Sunday best with chiselled jaws, designer stubble and high cheek bones but you’re Human After All. You’re not an awesome set of shiny robots sent to Earth from the farthest thinkable outreaches of the universe, to engage us in a disco-funk renaissance, are you?
Of course not – very few are.
Daft Punk are probably the most enigmatic and magical outfit to have ever seduced the music industry and that title isn’t about to fritter away. If anything it’s snowballed with the release of this spectacular composition.
I, like many others, have been gripped by the fascinating drip-fed marketing stratagem of Random Access Memories. RAM is the French duo’s fourth studio album and the first since Human After All (2005), although they have enjoyed the release and success of their live album, Alive (2007) and the soundtrack to the 2010 Disney blockbuster, Tron, since.
It features an all-star line up from the likes of acclaimed Italian producer, Giorgio Moroder to disco Jedi Master Nile Rogers on both sides of the desk. Fronting three tracks, one of which we’ve already grown to know rather well, is Pharrell Williams – and what a sensational choice of vocalist, I must say.
The album’s heart is captained by the early east coast scenes of disco and soul – ‘four-on-the-floor’ lives on. I’m hearing Chic, Sister Sledge, KC and The Sunshine Band, but they’re joined by some of the micro-genre offshoots that fed from their influences too.
Throughout you’re constantly reminded of the amount of work that’s gone into this stellar release – it’s so polished – every single aspect is a finely tuned intricacy. Every single iota of the fourteen track album has been overturned, observed, examined, buffed up and replaced.
Just when you think you’re being led into a boring and melancholic indie record with Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) featuring the same chugging power chords everyone’s been beating out since Nirvana, everything suddenly explodes into a composed yet electrifying soundscape. ‘Instant Crush’ is all about Mr Strokes’ auto tuned falsettos scraping the rafters of your mind, flanked by dazzling virtuosic solos and complementing slap pop bass. The track rings more truth with Casablancas’ solo stuff (see ‘Left and Right in The Dark’ or ‘The Four Chords of the Apocalypse’) as oppose to work with his world famous New York based group.
Pharrell makes a comeback with ‘Lose Your Self To Dance’, echoing Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost In Music’. It’s the high barre-chords that the 70s disco scene sat on for so long and Nile Rodgers isn’t about to let you forget about that. To be honest, it’s nothing short of excellent – constantly moving bass rides shotgun next to Williams and Daft Punk sat comfortably in the passenger seats harmonising ascending techno backing. Great metronome claps flirt with a ‘Bille Jean’ drum beat accommodating powerful semibreve raps on the snare.
On the Pharrell note, ever found yourself getting to the end of ‘Get Lucky’ and wanting play it again? Worry no more, as the feature length album version is over six minutes long.
Todd Edwards (celebrated house producer) is introduced with ‘Fragments of Time’, a Jamiroquai-esque acid jazz number, which is awesome for us but I bet JK is shitting his pants right about now. Daft Punk just stepped it up a few hundred gears in your world, buddy. What you saying?
It’s a cocktail of influence and the outcome is a smooth, composed, majestic beast of an album. Every track offers a fresh take on an old idea, but they’re executed with such precision. In music journalism you’re all too often presented with albums that stick to the same tedious theme throughout and you find yourself bored before track five. Fortunately it’s blindingly apparent that Daft Punk know not of ‘tedium’ – it’s not in their vocabulary.
Essentially, the project is like everything you’ve ever known about trance, dance, techno, funk, disco and pop, amalgamated into one elegant and arcane album. This kind of thing hasn’t been done before – Daft Punk were pioneers at the beginning of the century and they’re still pushing all our buttons twelve years on.
Random Access Memories culminates in an immense arpeggio laden drum and bass track that gyrates on the sticky adolescent pelvis of time and space. In one colossal crescendo, that acts exactly as you would expect a collapsing star to, ‘Contact’ builds levels upon levels on top of itself but eventually succumbs to the organised chaos and decadently implodes into nonentity, concluding the album and Daft Punk’s epic five year venture.
Soon to be published with I Are Yeti.