“Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and music being correct, you can do whatever you want. So, nobody told me what to do, and there was no preconception of what to do.”
These words are spoken by the disco legend Giorgio himself in “Giorgio by Moroder” and reflect perfectly Daft Punk’s approach to creating Random Access Memories, an amazing and diverse album that could very well be the group’s magnum opus.
If you’re expecting dance floor-ready music with regular bass drops and heavy beats, you’ll be sorely disappointed. What you will get is an epic journey through the 70s, 80s, 90s and the future of electronic music, a newly-found appreciation for music you may not have heard in the past, and a fun and still infectiously-catchy album.
To be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed after my first listen – I’d waited months for this album, watched all the collaborator videos, followed any news related to DP, and basically built up an unseen-level of anticipation for one of my favorite music groups of all time.
By the second listen, things were starting to make sense. By the third listen, this album had become my favorite of the year. I’ve listened to Random Access Memories over 15 times now, and the scary thing is that with each listen, the music just keeps on getting better and better.
The level of attention paid to the details is ridiculous. Unlike a lot of EDM songs out which go for the “loud” and “throw-everything-at-once” style, the songs in RAM sound much more low-key. But then you’ll notice each distinct layer, and the little details thrown in here and there, from a quick guitar lick to the sound of water drops.
I love the overall feel of the songs – they’re almost entirely recorded with actual instruments and have next to no samples. Daft Punk wanted to make the album more organic and bring the focus back to the music, and it’s apparent because it sounds so different from most electronic music out today.
Part of the reason is because the album is as much a throwback as it is a look to what electronic music could be in the near future. Daft Punk appreciated many styles of music growing up and collaborated with disco legends, movie songwriters, R&B stars, rock singers, and other producers in RAM. The result is an exciting array of songs – many different in style, but with a common theme – re-humanizing music and getting to the soul of the music. In fact, RAM reminds me of Queen’s A Night at the Opera, which also had many different styles of music with a common theme – going to an opera.
Some people have said that the album is too ambitious and scattered. I couldn’t disagree more. I liked the shifts in style and pacing from one song to the next and thought it kept the album interesting. It’s nice that Daft Punk avoided the safe route, where they could’ve pumped out a bunch of “Get Lucky”-style songs. To me, the album would’ve gotten old real quick. The real draw of RAM is its sheer variety of good music, “Get Lucky” included.
Some standout tracks include “Giorgio by Moroder,” a nine-minute musical journey which starts with an interview of disco legend Giorgio sharing stories from his musical career set to some seriously-cool disco beats. After the bridge the song breaks down into a jam session complete with drums and guitars. “Touch” almost sounds like a Broadway production and surprisingly works – the emotion from Paul Williams’ voice is absolutely beautiful. “Contact” starts with a sound clip from the last Apollo mission to the moon, and the organs that come in after the astronaut says “…but there’s something out there” gave me the chills.
Daft Punk have no plans currently on touring, instead saying that they’d rather fans focus on the music. While RAM doesn’t seem like it will convert well into huge-EDM venues, I’ve no doubt the robots will work their magic. All it took for me was a quick search on YouTube of the live version of “Contact” that the duo played a few years ago to convince me that many of these songs can – and will – be reworked into amazing live dance versions. And I for one cannot wait.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy an album that is through-and-through solid, compelling, and mostly importantly fun.
Power of the Mexican monkey at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.