Takk og farvel til Daft Punk – det var en fest mens det sto på

Takk for alt, Daft Punk. Dere var fantastiske!

Daft Punk er historie. Den franske elektronikaduoen som nådde sitt senit med albumet Random Access Memories i 2013 har valgt å legge virksomheten på hylla. I en merksnodig åtte minutter lang video kalt «Epilogue» tar de farvel på kryptisk, men ugjenkallelig vis. Veldig mange vil nok hevde at det var de to første platene, Homework (1997) og Discovery (2001), som med sine kjølige og maskinelle arrangementer er de som definerer Daft Punk. De kan ha et poeng, all den tid det var slik Thomas Bangalter og Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo etablerte sin soniske science fiction-verden, men for min del er det menneskeliggjøringen av musikken de presterte på Random Access Memories som blir mesterstykket deres. At en plate som man skulle anta ville bli atter en elektronisk dansegulvøvelse skulle bli så organisk og innbydende kom som en overraskelse, og det av det ekstremt velkomne slaget.

Da tiåret tok slutt utpekte jeg Random Access Memories som den aller beste platen utgitt mellom 2010 og 2019, foran mesterverk fra David Bowie, Kacey Musgraves, Signe Marie Rustad, Ólafur Arnalds, Lana Del Rey, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Prefab Sprout, Dawes og Kaja Gunnufsen på resten av Topp 10. Hele lista med 100 titler og ledsagende spilleliste finner du her.

Jeg blir veldig trist ved tanken på at det ikke blir mer musikk fra Daft Punk, men det går jo an å håpe at de to Bangalter og Homem-Christo finner på nye musikalske sprell i andre sammenhenger. Det skorter iallfall ikke på talentet. At vi har gått og ventet i åtte år på å høre noe nytt og belønnes med… så å si ingenting… er en gedigen skuffelse, men for min del setter jeg på Random Access Memories nok en gang, skjenker et glass vin, feller en forsiktig tåre og minnes en av de platene som virkelig har fått grunnen til å skjelve under meg i voksen alder. Det er ikke mange som klarer det.

Her er anmeldelsen jeg i sin tid skrev Random Access Memories, på min gamle engelskspråklige blogg Erik’s Musical Diary:

Daft Punk
Random Access Memories
(Daft Life/Columbia/Sony Music)

Much has already been said and written about French electronica duo Daft Punk’s new album, the surprisingly warm and – I think – heartfelt Random Access Memories. Most critics seem to love it, whereas a few doesn’t much like the fact that the record is light years away from the groundbreaking electronic music that shot Daft Punk to fame in the first place. The electronic elements are few – drum machines, a modular synthesizer, vintage vocoders – and the rest of the records’ sounds are performed on actual instruments; guitars, bass, drums, etc.

Random Access Memories is far removed from their previous three albums, Homework (1997), Discovery (2001) and the disappointing last album, Human After All (2005). Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are the men behind the masks, and they show more than mere glimpses of warmth and humanity on this album, they go a long way in distancing themselves from their own past, as well as utilizing their former strengths into building a finely detailed and formed construction of pure musical bliss. This is so much more than what we could have expected.

Random Access Memories is an album that takes you for a cosmic ride into a world of retro sci-fi (?) anthems, 70’s disco and soft-rock with a West Coast vibe, cheesy 80’s soundtrack music and much more. Bangalter and Homem-Christo may have left their electronic pioneering days behind, but that doesn’t stop them from exploring what is for them unknown musical territories (unknown in the sense they have not performed anything like this before) and succeeding to an impressive degree.

I will gladly suggest Random Access Memories as a remedy for depression. From the opening stanzas of album opener “Give Life Back To Music” in a sort of Saturday Night Fever meets Star Wars theme fashion, it’s immediately clear that you will smile a lot during the album’s running time. And so you do. Constantly. For 75 minutes running. But inbetween you’re also filled with wonder, nostalgia, excitement, incredulity and sheer joy. The pleasure of listening to this album is unlike any I have heard in a long time. It’s a record that makes me truly, unconditionally happy.

Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers is a key player on the album. Although he only plays his trademark funk guitar on three of the 13 songs, it’s as if his spirit is all over the place. His instantly familiar signature sound on “Give Life Back To Music”, “Lose Yourself To Dance” and first single “Get Lucky” keeps popping up in your mind throughout, even when it’s not there. When Rodgers is not playing the guitar, Bangalter and Homem-Christo instead leaves the job to Paul Jackson, Jr. whose greatest claim to fame is playing on classic hit albums by Michael Jackson such as Thriller and Bad. Drummer Omar Hakim, known from his work with Sting and Dire Straits among others, is another such force. His playing is eloquent but at the same time subtle, and needless to say, he never misses a beat. The same goes for another American studio legend, drummer John “J.R.” Robinson, famous from Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album amongst many others.

Random Access Memories sounds like a musical quest for Daft Punk. Although the hype surrounding its release has been of the smothering kind, there is real substance behind the hype. This is an album that seems born of the same emotions that hit me when I listen to it. I’m sure the wonder, nostalgia, excitement, incredulity and joy I feel are similar to what Bangalter and Homem-Christo must have felt during the recording, and it seems these emotions are the driving forces behind the album.

“Giorgio By Moroder” is just the thing I’m talking about. It’s one of the cornerstones, nine minutes long, featuring the Giorgio Moroder, disco king of the 70’s and 80’s, who’s especially well-known for his extensive soundtrack work and seminal records with Donna Summer. The track opens with Moroder talking about how he first dreamt of making a living out of music, and then blooms into a synth-, organ- and guitar-heavy epic that at times sounds like French disco band Space (of “Magic Fly” fame), other times as Herbie Hancock’s moved into the building and at yet other times as Mike Oldfield playing at his most furious while an intergalatic war is going on next door.

Another truly fascinating piece of music is the closing track “Contact”. It opens with a recording of the last human to set foot on the moon, Eugene Cernan, on the final Apollo mission in 1972, Apollo 17, released to Daft Punk exclusively by NASA. Cernan’s voice is heard describing a “bright object” from the window in his capsule over layers of synthesizers before the piece breaks out into fanfares and heavy drums. It was co-produced with Stéphane Quême a.k.a. DJ Falcon who previously worked with Bangalter as one part of the duo Together. Also, it has to be said, “Contact” revisits the track “Aerodynamic” from the 2001 album Discovery. It’s pretty much the same song, but with a different arrangement.

A note too on the different collaborators Daft Punk have gathered for the album. With singers as diverse as Paul and Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) and house legend Todd Edwards, French “unusual instrument aficionado” Thomas Bloch, pedal steel maestro Greg Leisz and all of the above mentioned, this is in every way an album beyond the ordinary. Sprinkled all over the place is wild imaginations and bright ideas, held in check by two French musicians/producers of the highest order,

The entire album is like this, full of excitement, surprises and small details adding to the confusion/fascination. It’s elegant work, studio mastery of the highest sort, and a welcome return to the living for electronic music as such. By looking backward, Bangalter and Homem-Christo has succeeded in jumping a big leap forward, not for their genre, but for themselves. Daft Punk is at the head of their game, and have reached both an artistic and a commercial peak with Random Access Memories. Do not be in doubt, this is a record that will sell in spades, deservedly so. Even though it loses a bit of momentum towards the end, this is Daft Punk’s crowning glory, their masterpiece. We, as a public, are lucky and priviliged to listen in. Am I in love with this record? You bet! Gloriously, heavenly so!

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