Daft Punk - Not So Random
In his SceneNoise debut, Mohamed Seif, A.K.A DJ Resemo, A.K.A founder of KingFut.com, offers his track-by-track take on the much-discussed and long-awaited Random Access Memories by House music heroes Daft Punk.
It’s been eight years since pseudo-artists Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, otherwise known as Daft Punk, have released an album. The forefathers of French House music released their much anticipated fourth studio album – aptly titled Random Access Memories – on the 21st of May after teasing and hyping up music enthusiasts all over the world with snippets from the album for over a month.
Now this is not your everyday EDM album. It’s much more than that. From the groovy guitar riffs of Chic’s Nile Rodgers to the homage paid to Michael Jackson in the funkiness of Get Lucky, read below for a not so random track-by-track review of this futuristic musical journey through the decades. Click on the titles to listen to each track.
The album kicks off with an epic sweep of a big Rock anthem, which flows into a very cool, smooth and laid-back groovy tune. A simple, yet unique Nile Rodgers riff builds the track as the signature vocoded vocals of Daft Punk give richness tothe track. A groovy, yet mellow song that’s sure to get you up and moving.
Now, this song has garnered mixed reviews. The majority of listeners noted it as one of the failures of the album. I, on the contrary, think it’s one of the more personal, subtle and achingly beautiful songs on the album. The wah-wah picks, the one-finger bass line notes, the tortured, humanised emotional sounds of the vocoded vocals and the variations in vocoded notes are chillingly beautiful.
I’m adamant that 98% of people had never heard of Giorgio Moroder before this Daft Punk album. This is the man behind Donna Summers’ Love to Love You Baby and I Feel Love. In other words, one of the forefathers of modern synth sounds. He’s also the man behind one of the more unique songs of this album and the longest, running at nine minutes. Boring? Actually, it’s pretty special. The song is divided into four parts, with totally different genres on display in each segment. The first part is a 70s groove with guitar riffs, then the second part comes in with the 4x4 beat and kick, accompanied by the distinctive sound of the moog modulator. A combination of the first two parts, along with epic orchestral strings and scratches integrate into an anthem with a massive 80s big room sound. A journey through decades of music in nine minutes. Not bad.
As we move along the album, the songs shift from A-minor to B-Flat minor, as indicated by the Grammy nominated Chilly Gonzales in his feature in The Collaborators series. The shift is heard immediately, as the beautiful piano chords engulf the listener in the first 40 seconds. Daft Punk’s signature vocoded vocals are introduced into the track with the prominent chorus, “I’ve been for some time, looking for someone, I need to know now, please tell me who I am,” echoing throughout. A feeling of vagueness and being lost is the theme for this track and it’s certainly one of the mellowest tracks of the album.
Julian Casablancas of The Strokes lends his vocoded vocals to the track along with a signature guitar solo. I can’t help but think about old Radiohead classics when listening to this song. The alternative feel, accompanied by the modern elements and Casablancas’ double-layered vocals encapsulates Radiohead’s retro sounds with modern twists. This track certainly improves with every listen and will be enjoyed by alternative-infused music enthusiasts.
I can’t quite figure out if this song is pure genius or a misinterpreted take on an attempt to become one. Pharrell Williams features again on the album with his higher octave vocals this time around. The song is built on Nile Rodgers’ looping guitar riff, with live drums and the introduction of affectionate claps. The song gets groovier and fills with life as an infectious vocoded “COME ON, COME ON, COME ON,” plays throughout, with high pitched variations.
Although seemingly simple for the casual listener, Touch is one of the masterpieces of the album. This song is the closest thing to a modern day musical, or perhaps what a Broadway musical from the future will sound like. From the composition of Academy award winner Paul Williams, the theatrical vocals, the choir, the enchantingly beautiful strings and the magic of musical theatre, this song has it all. Though it’s pretty complex, the breakdown of the orchestral strings and the uplifting choir chorus of "Hold on, if love is the answer, you’re home," will lift you up unlike anything else.
Columbia Records, Sony Music and the dynamic duo initiated the frenzy that is RAM by releasing a fifteen second astoundingly funky teaser on SNL which was looped to death by music enthusiasts, including yours truly. As it turned out, this was a very short clip of Daft Punk’s first single from the album – Get Lucky – featuring the vocals of Pharrell Williams and the aura of Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Till You Enough in terms of funkiness. Try increasing the BPM of this song to 128 and you’ll hear a surprise. Song of the year.
Much like the first opening track of the album, Give Life Back to Music, Beyond opens up with an epic sweep of grand theatrical strings reminiscent of a big budget Broadway production, which quickly delves into a groovy 80s sound. It’s these 80-ish bass licks that provide the backbone of the song as the vocoded vocals and background pads and strings add grandeur to a very laidback number.
Just as the name suggests, you could very well struggle to place this tune with its correct analogy. The humming bassline is like a heartbeat. You ponder whether this heartbeat does indeed represent the heart of a CPU, or rather a spaceship and this is a motherboard of a super computer on it. The classic chimed synths used in the track, along with the subtle percussions, are something out of Space Odyssey or Metroid. Futuristic in an elegant way.
Bordering between late 80s Blues and early 90s Country, the variations and movement between keys and harmonics on the track will either capture your attention on first listen or will leave you wondering how bad a record this is. Give it a couple of listens and it will certainly grow on you and you’ll be up and dancing in no time. The constant piano stabs, clear authentic kicks and Edward’s TV vocals might just convince you that this is a song worth listening to.
Panda Bear of Animal Collective – an experimental music band – lends his vocals to probably the only song in the album using pure electronic instruments. Production wise, the song can be produced on your favorite DAW in less than ten minutes. An 808 drum kit integrating kicks, claps, wood picks and a very simple hi-hat makes up the whole track, along with a vocoded background chorus of "Doin’ it right, everybody will be dancing," Certainly one of the weaker tracks of the album.
The last track on the album fittingly utilises Captain Eugene’s recorded speech from the Apollo 17 mission – the final Apollo mission to the moon – as he describes hauntingly a shiny, rotating object that is unlike any particle he has ever seen. As he finishes off with a haunting "There’s something out there," grand arpeggio synths intrude and build up until a constant flow of drums kick in. A truly epic climax to the track flourishes with the introduction of a sharp guitar chord, along with rich orchestral beats and progressive layers making the listener truly feel that it’s indeed the end of a journey.
There’s certainly nothing “random” about Daft Punk’s fourth incarnation, Random Access Memories, although, at first listen, it may seem so to the unsuspecting n00bs that have parachuted into the dance music scene as of late. Observing reactions of musical newbies, Avicii-loving honchos and the new crop of automated 4x4 beat producers as they utter their disappointment over the album as having little or no relation to dance music, brought a big smile to my face. In fact, I’m sure both Bangalter and de Homem-Christo have that same snigger beneath their futuristic helmets. Paying homage to 70s and 80s Disco, Funk and big room anthems, RAM succeeds in resurrecting EDM by redefining the groovy sound of decades past and integrating it with modern genius. It will certainly garner mixed reviews but, in turn, it will win the genre more than a handful of music appreciating fans. This is not, and I repeat, a pure modern electronic music album. Think of it as a journey; an educational, musical journey that will open your senses up to different genres and might just redefine the way you think about music. Daft Punk have successfully brought life back to music; it’s now time for us mortals to get a taste.