Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Random Acccess Opinions

Joe writes: Basically I love the Daft Punk album. Wait, there's more!

I loved Daft Punk from Da Funk to Digital Love but haven't liked too much since. I had mixed feelings about Get Lucky, feeling it paled in comparison to the likes of One More Time and Digital Love. I'm not a big fan of funky music per se so I wasn't excited by Daft Punk bringing that back. Mostly I just thought - and still think - that the marketing campaign around this album is the best I've seen during my time in the music industry, especially when you consider that their last studio album sold 70,000 in the UK and the Tron soundtrack did 100,000.

So I listened to Random Access Memories once and thought it was OK. Then I listened again out of duty. Then something made me listen a third time. Now I can't stop listening and I think I will be listening for years to come. I can't remember the last time a new album had that effect on me.

There is one element that predisposed me towards this album - I'm a fan of emotional vocoder music. I loved bits of 808s & Heartbreaks, but song-for-song Random Access Memories wipes the floor with Kanye's album. It's long at 13 tracks but every track has merit. And to hear "electronic" music played by brilliant musicians on real instruments is just so refreshing.

I wonder if there was any A&R involvement in this album besides a vote of confidence from Columbia Records? I suspect the other huge album of the moment, Justin Timberlake's, may have been made with a similar lack of A&R involvement. I guess there's something to be said for leaving great artists to their own devices (not that it works every time, or for every artist).

Daft Punk eschewed the easy route of synthesisers and samples with this album. Instead they did what so few people would take the time, effort or expense to do - they recruited world class original musicians to play parts that are worthy of being sampled. Sometimes you get out what you put in to music. 

There's something fascinating about the artist or musician as film director, not necessarily performing or writing or twiddling knobs but merely directing and curating. This describes some of the most successful producers of recent time including Rick Rubin and Rollo. If you want to make an album that stops people in their tracks, maybe you need a little distance from the minutiae of the process. Having said that, Thomas and Guy are the sole producers, writers and vocalists on one of my favourite tracks, The Game of Love.

As the album campaign unfolded, it became clear there's a tension in Daft Punk between a desire to maintain distance and mystique, a strong degree of ambition, and one member (Thomas Bangalter) who clearly loves to talk and is extremely eloquent. So much of the brilliant marketing campaign must have come from them. 

Then there was the wonderful Pitchfork interview - a masterpiece in a band controlling how they are represented in the media. This quote in particular highlighted how much Daft Punk have thought about their music, and how that thought process has helped them make an album bigger and better than anything their contemporaries have managed: “It's very strange how electronic music formatted itself and forgot that its roots are about freedom and the acceptance of every race, gender, and style of music into this big party,” says Bangalter. “Instead, it started to become this electronic lifestyle which also involved the glorification of technology.” 

I'm so on board with this album I've even purchased a Chic Organisation t-shirt. I even love Giorgio By Moroder. 

I've added my favourite six tracks to a Spotify playlist called Joe's favourite new tracks (I'll be updating this regularly, adding tracks in reverse chronological order).

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