Review: “Random Access Memories”

Review: “Random Access Memories”

Review: “Random Access Memories”
May 14
15:28 2013

Michael Felder / Staff Writer

4.5 out of 5 stars

When Daft Punk makes music, the world listens. And they should—after all, the group has been jamming for 20 years. The French duo of Thomas Bangalter, 38, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 39, are considered “founding fathers” of the electronic music genre as we know it, and it’s that same history that allowed the two to create this album.

Since they wrote the rules, Daft Punk is also in the perfect position to break them all at this point in their career. Adding a slew of collaborators—along with some frustrations about the current state of the electronic genre—makes “Random Access Memories” possibly their most experimental and inviting project to date.

In a genre that is currently overrun with dubstep remixes and “waiting for the drop,” Daft Punk takes the kind of left turn with “Memories” that might warrant a name change. Elements of funk, jazz and disco have always appeared in the group’s music, particularly on their seminal 2001 release “Discovery,” but it would be a challenge to find even a single 808 drumbeat or canned handclap on this album.

All things digital have been traded out for full instrumentation, with freshly sampled sound effects and an occasional live drum riff bringing an authentic feeling to this otherwise robotic pair. Tracks like “The Game of Love,” “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Instant Crush” have a distinct mid-‘70s to late ‘80s sound that manages to sound timeless, instead of dated. Even the design of the album cover is similar to Michael Jackson’s hit record, “Thriller.”

Sitting pretty between the live instruments are smooth vocoder verses and synthesized sound that makes Daft Punk who they are. “Memories” is less Skrillex and more Breakbot, a French producer and DJ who is also fond of disco-infused sounds. This is not an album of club-bangers that blow your eardrums with every synthetic sound in the book.

Instead, its sound keeps an electronic vibe without sacrificing the elusive “groove” that collaborators Nile Rodgers, guitarist for disco-era R&B band Chic, and Pharrell Williams, a prominent producer and vocalist in the world of hip-hop swear by.

To be sure, “Memories” should prove divisive for longtime listeners.  Fans of the banging bass drums on past singles like “Around the World,” or the largely popular “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” may not find anything remotely recognizable. The spacy, conceptual nature of some tracks, like “Touch” and “Giorgio by Moroder,” may leave some listeners feeling lost in between the beats, though they make for some of its most thought-provoking moments.

Despite a “no fist-pumping allowed” approach to one of the most anticipated comeback records in electronic music, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” makes great use of the sounds of lost genres to create something for everyone. It’s a time capsule, an exciting homage to the era of disco, funk and live instrumentation that will make you dance all summer long. We can only hope it won’t take another eight years for their next album.

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