As the hype wave begins to crest on Daft Punk’s colossal fourth studio album, we can’t help but reminisce on the two-decade-long rise of dance music’s brightest innovators. You see, in between the low-key genius of 1997’s Homework and the robo-loving pandemonium of present, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have effectively shaped our modern music scene — and whatever they do next undoubtedly signals change for the biz at large. So, then, what comes of a Daft Punk album eight years in the making? Well, it’s a dizzyingly disco-steeped offering. It’s also filled with guest stars, ranging from Pharrell Williams to Panda Bear to The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas. More importantly, though, Random Access Memories feels like a living, breathing, funk-and-groove-filled songbook far removed from the current electronic music landscape. Fittingly, the lengthy wait for RAM hedged on the scope of its creation; the majority of the album was built from live recordings with iconic session players (Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams). It also employs heaps of vintage drum machines, synthesizers, and vocoders. Take, for example, “Touch,” the eight-minute centerpiece track that features Paul Williams delivering a schmaltzy, Rocky Horror Picture Show–esque number before seamlessly morphing into a melancholy piano ballad in the vein of Captain EO. Later down the line, we get the Kraftwerk-channeling “Doin’ It Right,” which starts off with a tinny click-track before blossoming into a gloriously bouncing collection of synths and robo vocals. And in between it all, there’s Pharrell, who provides some of RAM’s most blatantly groovy, disco-inspired moments. In other words, it’s an album that extols the virtues of man-made music, made by two guys that live their public lives in robot costumes. And the irony is only a fraction of the reason why it rules.
Random Access Memories