Preview: Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

daft-punk-random-access-memories

The hotly anticipated Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, was leaked on Monday 14th May 2013, two weeks ahead of its official release date. My copy has been on pre-order for a couple of weeks now, but I just couldn’t resist the temptation to have a listen before it drops through my letterbox  at the end of the month! So, here is a very rare preview of the upcoming album everyone is talking about.

First off, the Tron: Legacy soundtrack really did punk the French duo firmly back on the map as credible producers of music again after their last studio album, Human After All, was more hit than miss. But then, it was always going to be hard to top the massive success of Discovery, an album that truly defined a musical genre and catapulted Daft Punk into the worldwide spotlight.

For this album, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (the pair behind the robot masks) have veered away from their French House sound and have opted for a heavily funk based sound. Also, the majority of the tracks on the album feature a more straightforward, band-based sound. There are actual guitars, bass and drums as well as synthesisers. In fact the majority of the songs feature standard verse – chorus – verse style structures as opposed to the usual repeated vocal samples so prevalent in electronic dance music.

This is a refreshing break from the norm and what really sets them apart from their peers. Only last week Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) told the NME that hearing the lead single from Daft Punk’s new album, ‘Get Lucky’, was so good that it put him off making a new album.

But funk isn’t the only thing up this album’s sleeve, although it is a theme that runs through the album. There are so many diverse influences on this album, there are house tracks and there is a prog rock influence hidden in there. There are also a couple of slower songs, a love song and a slightly more melancholic affair.

This could be Daft Punk’s most successful cross-over record yet as the only real alienating ingredient left in is the synthesised vocals which, I think, tends to polarize the audience. The fact of the matter is that this album sounds like it has been sent through time from the 1970s. The first collaborator on the album is called ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ and features an interview by legendary producer Giovanni “Giorgio” Moroder who worked with Donna Summers, The Three Degrees, Bonnie Tyler and Sparks to name but a few and was an innovator of synthesisers in disco music. It is a nine minute track that progressively spans the 1970s to the present day in sonic form. It really is the musical metaphor for the whole album.

Other performers on the album are Nile Rogers, who was a founding member of Chic, Paul Williams, a songwriter who wrote for David Bowir, the Carpenters and The Muppets’ ‘Rainbow Connection’, Pharell Williams from N*E*R*D* and The Neptunes, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, (doing a falsetto vocal performance through a vocoder) among many others.

The only criticism I can give it is that the style is so far removed from their previous sound that I can’t see many of the funk or piano based songs fitting into their DJ sets in which they use their repetitive electronic beats to mix between songs and play around with vocal samples over the top of the songs. As these are largely band-based songs with pop music structures they lend themselves to a performance based live experience. Which is probably why they aren’t announcing a tour for this album.

This album will strike a chord with fans of all types of music from those who only know Daft Punk from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack, those who have been fans of the band from the beginning, funk and disco fans and the wider pop audience in general. The only way from here is up.

Stand out songs include: Funk; ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’, ‘Fragments Of Time’ and ‘Give Life Back To Music’. House; ‘Motherboard’ and ‘Contact’. Out there-ness; ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ and ‘Touch’. ‘Doin’ It Right’ is another good song with a pop sound.

Basically Daft Punk are back with a winner. Random Access Memories is the sound of a group back on top of their game while trying something quite a way outside of their comfort zone, even more so than mixing electronic dance music and an orchestra!

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