After eight long years, the eccentric French electronic music duo Daft Punk is re-entering the electronic music fray. Their new album, Random Access Memories, was released Tuesday in the U.S. on iTunes. The effort takes its listeners back to previous years of electronic music performances and revives the success of this legendary music pairing.
Since electronic dance music has arrested society’s interest over the a large part of the past decade, the Parisian duo, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, borrowed styles of the past and remodeled them to produce a new fusion that today’s audience can appreciate. The final product is a unique tracklist that utilizes popular genres of the past, such as new wave and soft rock, along with techy tunes that make this album a one-of-a-kind creation
One way in which RAM honors the icons and legends of the disco world is by incorporating vocals in its album, including the vocals of disco legends themselves. For example, “Giorgio by Moroder” shines a spotlight on the song’s namesake, 73-year-old pioneer of Italian disco Giorgio Moroder, who describes his personal values and involvement in the evolution of music.
Perhaps the most anticipated track, reaching the Official U.K. Singles Chart just hours after being released, “Get Lucky” fosters a much more widespread appreciation for the album. With its funky grooves and hip-hop elements, the song appeals to several generations without overwhelming the futuristic details. The track is symbolic of Daft Punk’s successful attempt to bridge together the music legends of various generations into number. While Nile Rodgers represents the ear-taunting R&B music of the ’70s and ’80s, Pharrell Williams embodies the same genre of a much later era. The result is a bold, electric romance between European disco tunes and foot-tapping beats, that makes even the most resistant of listeners blast the song on repeat.
The duo wraps things the album up with the otherworldly “Contact,” a sweeping, epic track which combines bashing drums, smooth organ notes and circular synth patterns while an astronaut narrates a panoramic view of Earth from outer space.
The duo’s decision to mix music of the past and dabble with new technology proves that the idea of the “next level” is merely an illusion. The album attempts to go beyond the commonplace music scene, avoiding generic build-ups and drops that listeners are used to hearing from artists at major electronic music festivals.
Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times has gone so far as to call the album “cheesy,” noting that some of the tracks lack the energy and vitality of past releases. Others, such as Tom Hawking of the Flavorwire, criticized RAM’s authenticity, denouncing the duo’s collaboration with a variety of irrelevant A-list names who aren’t from the EDM movement. Ardent Daft Punk fans have praised the album’s timeless nature, declaring the blend of ’80s inflections and awe-inspiring brass the toast of the summer.
For listeners not acquainted with Daft Punk’s unique style, the tunes will sound similar, but it is advisable to take note of the lyrics, which are far more emotional than any other dubstep or house track’s. Despite the grating critiques and negative reviews, Random Access Memories can be distinguished for its daring experimental vocals and its visionary leap from the common theme of EDM.
The production sequence for this album utilized pre-digital technology that the pair worked with in the ’90s: synthesizers, vocoders, one sample and traditional instruments such as guitar and drums. The composition of these songs is layered with swift beats and countless smooth infusions of vocals and ’80s-inspired guitar pieces that mimic the groovy style of early discotheque nightlife. Each song bleeds into the next with a continuous melody that sparks relaxation, giving each track substance.
Compared to typical head-banging EDM tracks, Daft Punk’s music elicits not only energy, but soul. The style could be deemed “old school,” but the combination of Daft Punk’s legendary shuffles and collaborations with artists such as Williams generate a new appreciation for the electronic music scene.
The two-and-a-half-year-long composition process effortlessly incorporated various facets of musical personas to give a sense of wholeness to the album. Working with artists such as Julian Casablancas and Moroder afforded the duo an opportunity to shed light on their perception of soulful music by carefully weaving together their voices with the choppy stirs of computers.
As the last track comes to a close, the album wraps up with the sound of static, sending a message of the last “breathing” moments of life that technology withholds.
With that final touch, Daft Punk establishes a newfound outlook on music as they sift through the blur of today’s over-the-top, generic, heavy pumping beats and successfully rejuvenate their melodic songs of the past with a modern outlook of creating something old that is new again.