Music Review: Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

Random Access Memories - Daft Punk (image courtesy of Daft Punk and Sony Records)

Random Access Memories – Daft Punk (image courtesy of Daft Punk and Sony Records)

It took eight years, but electro-dance duo Daft Punk finally leaked their fourth STUDIO album Random Access Memories (RAM) on iTunes through a live stream on May 10th. Then the official release for purchase happens May 21st. I caught the stream a few times and felt it quality enough to purchase an advance copy from iTunes. I have absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

Wow, did this album get hyped or what? For a solid year I have seen promos for Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (RAM), and after releasing the first single “Get Lucky” with short video at Coachella, they upped the amperage. Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel-de Homem Christo did the right thing by streaming RAM before release. It’s obvious that it would be pirated anyway, but at least this is a step in the right direction: that the band and record company promote it FIRST, THEMSELVES. In the current model of the music industry, artists earn less and less from their record sales because of file sharing, where artists make up for it is in touring. I have to imagine Daft Punk will break the bank this year on their tour so previewing it early was not a big deal. Not to mention there ARE still people that actually buy music and in pre-streaming it, the group gave potential buyers a chance to reward them in good faith.

From reports this album was in the hopper for nearly five years with the Grammy Award winning duo starting it concurrently with the Tron:Legacy soundtrack production. You can hear how much attention they have put into detail.

What is most striking to me is the live band sound. This is the first real time that they have written, hired musicians and incorporated their live performances rather then just written and sampled (not that formula didn’t suit them well). My co-editor (and music aficionado in his own right) turned me onto Daft Punk years ago. I had always dug them when he had played “Homework” back in the day chilling and smoking…*cough* but never really got INTO the duo until I traveled to Australia in 2010-12. It was in Melbourne that my good friends the Hussey brothers really opened the door to them for me. Time and place I guess. That and seeing the recent “Tron:Legacy” really sold me on the DJ duo. This album blends all these aspects and eras, but really pushing this live “disco” sound. And to pull THAT off well? It’s stunning actually because man I am just not a disco guy.

After initial listens to the album (yes you have to at least twice and yes I want to again…and again) the stand out tracks are the premier track “Give Life Back to Music,” the bit more melancholy “Instant Crush,” and the dynamic layered hypergroove “Loose Yourself to Dance.” The last being the first of two tracks featuring vocals from the slick Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D fame and 70’s disco and studio legend Nile Rodgers. Rodgers’ sweeter then sugar pop licks appear in the best taste throughout the album.

It’s in these tracks that Daft Punk do well in establishing their wonderfully blended decade spanning theme of RAM, which continues on masterfully throughout the 75 minute voyage.

Daft Punk recruited Disco composing/producing legend Giorgio Moroder to narrate “Giorgio by Moroder.” …a reminiscing of his musical history and how the synth changed everything. The duo again marvels by juxtaposing his spoken word with unreal orchestral and synth arrangements. The DJ’s will eat this track up for the samples alone.

“Touch”… this showcases the sound they created in the Tron soundtrack of synths and strings with those live performers I mentioned. This multi-part sonata really crescendos in epic proportions into a dead stop and then lull. Their advanced writing and arrangement on this track is what really impresses me. Paul Williams of seventies fame gives his best yearning vocal performance.

Then of course the blockbuster single “Get Lucky.” I’m sure it has already had a ton of play in the US and UK and deservedly so. Do yourself a favor and avoid getting burnt out on it, because it’s that good of a song. 80’s beat on the down with Rodgers and Williams in on the consistently tight rhythmic and lyrical approach. Hook, Line…and yeah…sinker.

You can see the groups influence from their “Tron:Legacy” production with Joseph Trapanese on “Motherboard.” Light drifty synths give this a vision of “being” on a everlasting cyber plane then being “washed” over in information.

The tail end of the RAM ascends further past the stratosphere. “Fragments of Time” is right out of the Steely Dan catalogue…I swear it is. And then mix in vocal and synth effects to further the lush sound? Keep it coming…

…ok “Doin it Right.” That involves main vocals by Panda Bear with backing vocals processed in the classic computerize Daft Punk sound. A bit slower tempo but ‘The Magic is Right.’

Finally, the duo close in dramatic fashion with a sample from Apollo 17 pilot Eugene Cernan leading into a over processed orchestral build lending itself into a full on drum assault, then pushing it all forward in “Contact.” Hellava exclamation point…

But really this sort of high quality release is what I (as well as many) have come to expect from Daft Punk. Now how will this come off live? Hmmmmm…Hype, what hype? It’s the real deal.

Joe Grez

Joe Grez

Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is still an artist developer trying to keep up with new technologies. Photography still has been one of his strongest passions. However, now his main focus has led him back to music where he teaches guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion privately. Music education can never be short changed.

One Response to Music Review: Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
  1. [...] Punk – Random Access Memories (2013) – I reviewed the album for Joup earlier this year. You can read...

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