If you haven’t already been by Daft Punk’s home page in the last week, prepare to party hard for 15 seconds, because that’s all you get! The genre-defining French house duo has officially announced their long-awaited new album, revealing its title, release date, and little else. Under the title Random Access Memories, the robo-dj pair is expected to release their fourth studio effort on May 21, and while they haven’t yet dropped any videos, singles, or even track titles, the 15-second preview on their site has already prompted countless fans to listen to what little crusts they’ve got on loop.
The track first appeared in a brief spot during SNL the previous week in instrumental form, pleasantly surprising fans with its classic disco feel and rather un-Daft clarity of sound, signifying a shift in production style towards the work of collaborator Nile Rodgers. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the prolific producer confirmed that the as-of-yet unnamed track “shows you the great collaboration” and features the signature funk guitar playing that first brought Rodgers mainstream attention with seminal disco band Chic in the late 70’s.
In many ways, Daft Punk and Nile Rodgers might be a perfect match, especially when you consider Daft Punk’s history of taking cues from many of Chic’s dance floor contemporaries. On the quintessential album Discovery, Daft Punk broke new ground in the field of sampling when they spliced together classic disco and funk tracks by Barry Manilow, George Duke, and Edwin Birdsong to create their beats, usually slicing songs mercilessly into micro-snippets to shuffle and create the backbone of their infectious beats. Though they’ve apparently chosen not to repeat this experiment in the preview to Random Access Memories, the old-fashioned groove they’ve recorded with Rodgers may very well one-up it.
And it’s about time too. While the reputation of Discovery may be impossible to top, subsequent releases have been met with an agonizing awareness among fans that something is missing. While the live album Alive 2007 proved to be a mash-up masterpiece and confirmed the band’s status as masters of dj stagecraft, their studio efforts Human After All and the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy have been noticeably lacking in brilliant originals. Human After All made a strong push towards an overall more electronic sound, although many complained that its reliance on pure repetition and more overt samples made it pail in comparison to efforts by comparable house groups, such as the hybrid EDM-rock creations of Justice. Tron: Legacy had an excellent soundtrack that proved Daft Punk is on par with other gearheads-turned-film-scorers like BT and Trent Reznor, but largely lacked any dance tracks barring the too-short “Derezzed” which clocked in at less than 2 minutes.
What Nile Rodgers has given Daft Punk is a disco sound that is not only dance-worthy but completely authentic, and perhaps the shot in the arm they need for another masterpiece. While creating original recordings may be the antithesis to the sampling innovations that made them essential study to DJ’s the world over, it does give them the chance to fully confront the retro style that made Discovery so instantly-identifiable among casual listeners.
On the other side of the coin, in many ways Daft Punk has done Nile Rodgers and perhaps the whole disco era a favor. For many in Daft Punk’s younger audience, disco was an embarrassing memory of their parents’ generation until Discovery reintroduced the genre minus its divisive context as the oft-hated enemy of “serious” music of the era like rock, folk, and jazz. With the intensity of tracks like “One More Time” and “Digital Love” and their cool robot personae, Daft Punk bridged a gap few others had successfully crossed, landing somewhere magical between boogieing and thrashing. And for those worried Daft Punk might be drifting too far from their famous sound, their signature “Harder Better Faster Stronger” style vocoded vocals reassuringly chant “Get Funky” throughout the site preview.
In the same way that many young people found themselves discovering classic pop records while perusing the various samples on Discovery, some confirmed and some only rumored, hopefully Random Access Memories will be a chance for a few kids to discover the excellent work of Nile Rodgers, who has performed on and produced countless records. From the 80’s onward, Nile Rodgers was responsible for re-energizing many rock bands into major dance floor hits – his work on two albums with David Bowie yielded “Let’s Dance”, one of the English star’s two USA number ones, and Rodgers’ dance sensibilities gave the B-52’s their biggest hit “Love Shack” on their comeback album Cosmic Thing. He’s also the chops behind the iconic records of a variety of performers, including Diana Ross’ diana, Madonna’s breakthrough Like A Virgin, and even performance artist Laurie Anderson’s live record Home Of The Brave.
Random Access Memories can be pre-ordered on iTunes.Google+