By: Emiliano Vazquez-Parrales (firstname.lastname@example.org), Section Editor for Student Voices
Grammy award-winning electronic house music duo Daft Punk has once again raised the bar on what it means to be a modern electronic group and have gone above and beyond what is expected of them by approaching electronic music from a completely new angle. Daft Punk has in the past shown they are not afraid to try new things when it comes to their music and that they are also willing to work with a wide array of artists and instruments. However, they have for the most part remained behind the turntables when it comes to composing the music – save for the entire orchestra they had at their disposal when they created the score for Disney’s TRON: Legacy.
Random Access Memories, the latest installment to their discography, is by far the most unique of all the Daft Punk albums. Daftpunk purposely limits their electronic instrumentation to a drum machine, a synthesizer, and vintage vocoders, and used only live musicians and instruments to record the album. It is essentially a stylistic tribute to the music of the 1970’s and 1980’s incorporating elements of Disco, Funk, and Electronic into what can be viewed as a musical return to their roots with a bang. Much like Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album, Random Access Memories features a wide variety of modern musicians, most notably hip-hop superstar Pharrell Williams, rock sensation Julian Casablanca, and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. Alongside these modern superstars are also some veteran superstars whose music has influenced a lot of modern electronic, house, disco, and rock music, like Oasis Records founder and electronic music icon Hansjörg “Giorgio” Moroder and the album’s producer and Academy Award-winning singer/songwriter Paul Williams. What makes this album so great lies in the variety of sounds and musicians that worked together creating a collective of 12 songs that resonate with the echoes of musical styles that have long been forgotten in the age of computer sampling and electronic music composition, while still sounding like something straight out of the future. The funk and pop of the bass lines provide a perfectly groovy rhythm for the synthesizer to dance over switching between the ambiance and forefront of the songs. The drums are also masterfully written infusing a lot of hip-hop elements with jazz and electronic beats. When a guitar is used it is mostly for rhythm, but the song Giorgio by Moroder features an incredible guitar solo at the song’s climax. This album sends a very clear message that musicians who have many years of practicing and honing their skills are still able to create music and sounds that even the best computer software cannot emulate; it is a type of imprecision that makes the music sound so much more real than the exact mechanical precision of music made solely on a computer.
For over 20 years Daft Punk has set the standard for electronic and house music and have become one of the world’s best known DJ’s. Their sound has gone on to influence a lot of the world’s top electronic and house composers like Skrillex and deadmau5, and has really helped to herald in the age of musical composition on computers. Random Access Memories debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on May 28, 2013, and has broken record sales across the globe selling over 300,000 physical copies in the U.S. Only Justin Timberlakes The 20/20 Experience has sold more physical copies. Random Access Memories is truly a musical masterpiece that possesses real human heart and talent, and brings its listeners great joy, and an urge to get off their rears and lose themselves in dance. I give Daft Punks Random Access Memories a 4.5/5.
Anyone interested in how the album was created should check out the web series on Daft Punks website, daftpunk.com.