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Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories

Posted on the 24 May 2013 by Thewildhoneypie @thewildhoneypie


So…after all the hype, preview videos, tracklist reveals, collaborator interviews and feverish anticipation, Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, has finally landed. After a masterclass in prolonged promotion, does the record match the anticipation? Has it been worth the wait? The straightforward answer to that question is yes! It has indeed been worth the wait. With that satisfaction, however, comes a couple of complications — this record is, in many ways, not the release most people we’re probably expecting.

Although they can’t be held responsible for the recent surge and popularity of EDM, the robots’ earlier work definitely planted a few seeds in its eventual development. Their high-octane, energized mix of techno and funk not only moved the masses onto the dance floor but acted as an inspirational catalyst for those dabbling in dance-orientated electronica. Rather than capitalize on the movement they helped initially spawn, Daft Punk have moved several degrees away, producing a body of work that some might say is the antithesis of contemporary dance music.

Random Access Memories is more than simply the duo’s fourth album. This collection of songs represents an invite aboard their orbiting spaceship, giving us a taste of the observational material the pair have gathered since their arrival. They’ve encoded an audible cypher of memories, influences, inspirations and an understanding of both humanity and music. The album, in its very essence, is a retrospective look at how we envisioned the future thirty to forty years ago. The disco era guitar licks and deep bass bring back the lost art of the groove and place it front and centre, while analogue synth’s, spacey pads, jazzy organs and vintage vocoder vocals brilliantly encapsulate the sounds of tomorrow as it was back then! The best example of this, and a sheer standout achievement on the record, is “Giorgio by Moroder”, which not only acts as a living testament to the work of Giorgio himself, but see’s Daft Punk craft a near ten minute odyssey that encapsulates his ideas in a brilliantly-composed, free -flowing and evocative manner.

The album begins to tear off into another dimension, though, when the duo get a bit more experimental than previously seen. Whether it be the slow burning piano work courtesy of Chilly Gonzalez on “Within”, the far reaching ambience meets soundtrack work of “Motherboard” or the sensory experience that is “Touch”, several songs see Daft Punk implement new ideas and try their hand at some very different approaches. During these moments in particular, the pair actually show a lot of heart and expose a lot more emotion than before. Most notably, there are moments of genuine melancholy peppered throughout, which will either lead to respect or disappointment. For me its very much the former.

Having said all this, as good as Random Access Memories is, it could be better. At a run time of nearly one hour, fifteen minutes it does occasionally feel a little bloated. There are moments of clinging repetition which could have been cut and tracks like “Instant Crush” and “Fragments of Time” (featuring Julian Casablancas and House music guru Todd Edwards) do nothing for me personally and do nothing to develop or solidify the album. In comparison to the album’s pros, though, R.A.M.’s cons are pretty minor, and what works on the record vastly outweighs what dosen’t.

This may not have been the record you or many others expected, anticipated or even wanted, but by bringing soul and imagination to their musical output, Daft Punk have shown signs of significant growth. Furthermore, their ability to scale down, strip back and expose a more loving, learned and vulnerable side shows that after all this time, the robots may be human after all!

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