Daft Punk delivers its first official album, Random Access Memories, in eight years after the Grammy award-winning electronic duo fanned the flames with endless teasers suggesting a return to music.
With Random Access Memories, the most anticipated album of the year to date, French house musicians Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo set out to bring the human soul back back to dance music. To reach this altruistic goal, the two elected to produce the majority of the album using live instrumentation, innovative recording techniques and various collaborations with session musicians.
After dropping numerous hints of funky new material through media outlets, high-profile ads and a teaser at Coachella, the release arrives as a distinguished collection of robotic disco beats and mellow jazz fusion heavy on drum machines, modular synthesizers and vintage vocoder, and some surprisingly moody themes. The album pays tribute to music of the late 1970s and early 80s with help from pioneer Nile Rodgers, front man for multi-platinum hit R&B band Chic.
The album begins with “Give Life Back To Music,” a slow building digital guitar introduction climaxing with a familiar android voice droning prescriptive poetry. After a rocking instrumental guitar solo steers toward a slow fade out, “The Game of Love” leads us into melancholic cosmic journey that tailored more for a subdued VIP room than an all-night dance party.
“Giorgio By Moroder” begins as a musical monologue on the life of Italian disco musician and proficient synthesizer innovator Giorgio Moroder that unexpectedly turns into nine minutes of rhythmically pulsating star guitar. “Within” features android confessionals and self-reflection with a light metered beat, followed by similarly styled “Instant Crush” with Julian Casaablancas of the Strokes. “Lose Yourself To Dance” introduces adept hip hop creator Pharrell Williams, a welcome addition with simple soft chants paired with a steady funk beat, while “Touch” celebrates the half-way point of the album’s voyage with Paul Williams’ charming ballad vocals, vintage disco piano and trumpet decorated with whimsical noise effects.
Following a smooth transition, the instant the first single “Get Lucky” sneaks in eight tracks deep with the return of Pharrell’s money vocals. The pleasure-enduing song that broke Spotify streaming records to become the unofficial single of the summer clearly ranks as the brightest gemstone of Random Access Memories. “Beyond” starts the dilatory decline of fun, continued by “Motherboard” with odd space effects.
Todd Edwards provides one last lift with a reflective yet surprisingly upbeat melody on “Fragments of Time” but by the penultimate track “Doin’ It Right” featuring Panda Bear, the album’s energy dramatically begins to fade. “Contact,” the the only track that uses sampling on the album, serves as the epic orchestral conclusion with explosive drum beats .
Commendation for artistic merit feels warranted but not without slight confusion toward the generally downbeat and melancholy tone ofRandom Access Memories. Dance enthusiasts patiently waiting for the release might wonder why their patience is rewarded with such somber vibes.
Although not structurally top heavy, it’s hard to believe that any tracks on the record other than “Get Lucky” will ever get steady play in clubs without a remix. Nonstop party seekers will have to look elsewhere for more inspirational rally music.