Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories Part 2

Picking up where we left off last week, today I’ll be finishing my review of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and giving it a final rating.

Before we dive into “Touch,” I feel it fair to correct a small error, for the sake of quality journalism (read: I like being right about things), which is that “Giorgo by Moroder” is a longer track than “Touch.” That’s it, really. Anyway, let’s actually talk about the music now.

“Touch” is a whole musical journey of its own. Opening on the sounds of wind and synths before taking a turn for the creepy as the atmosphere grows more tense and a distorted voice painfully whispers out the opening verse. A tense build up follows before suddenly: a calm solemn verse by fantastic guest vocalist Paul Williams. The verse builds into that staple funky energy that this album has held, calming a bit before coming back even stronger. A fantastic arrangement of drums, keys, and brass is what follows before a sudden breakdown of sci-fi laser synths that builds into a repeating of the core mantra of the song “Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.” It builds as a choir of voices joins in, repeating on triumphantly before being interrupted by another transitional breakdown. What follows this breakdown is an uplifting arrangement of synth of strings as slowly but surely the choir of voices repeating the aforementioned phrase rejoins the song, as do those sci-fi synths from earlier. The section doesn’t stop building however, growing louder and louder into a powerful cacophony, overwriting the comforting, triumphant feeling with a sense of anxiety and confusion before suddenly it all…stops. The song then ends with a final solemn verse from Paul Williams, saying that touch has “given [him] too much to feel” and that it has “almost convinced [him he’s] real.” While the piece may have a strong pretentiousness to it with an exaggerated illustration of sensory overload and sensitivity overload, the music backing gives everything it has to illustrate the grand presentation, giving the listener a soundscape that emulates the emotions the song is trying to discuss. It’s a magical blend of musical word painting and atmosphere creation that I’m honestly quite addicted to. So, where do we go from here?

What is there to say about “Get Lucky” that hasn’t already been said. The stand out single from this album, “Get Lucky” was a radio hit, and a good one at that. It’s full six minute version might be off-putting to listeners used to the radio version, after all wouldn’t it get old after that long? Not really, I’d say. It’s still an enjoyable experience no matter which version of the track you listen to.

The next few songs, while all good, aren’t nearly as grand as “Touch,” so I’ll only discuss them briefly. “Beyond” is a much calmer, thoughtful track after the dancey, high energy “Get Lucky” that serves its role well as a bit of a calming piece, while still being enjoyable. “Motherboard” brings back the energy with rather erratic percussion and varied bass line. It’s the only true instrumental track on the album, giving Daft Punk full room to show off their skills with experimental, multi-emotional soundscapes. “Fragments of Time” is, while unfortunately probably the least memorable of the featured artist tracks, still a fun pseudo-romantic piece (I use the term pseudo-romantic here because while the track sounds romantic, the subject matter is more sentimental as Todd Edwards sings about keeping recordings, whether physical or mental, of positive memories throughout life). The next track, “Doin’ It Right” was a bit of an oddity, as it first stuck out to me as…not terribly great. But it got better as it went on, with the vocal talent of Panda Bear really adding to the experience.

The album’s closer, “Contact,” predictably tackles the concept of first contact with alien life, using an edited radio recording from the Apollo 17 mission to illustrate this. After this however, Daft Punk does what they do best and let the music do the talking and what occurs afterwards is a mix of anxiety, hopefulness, and above all, a lingering, wise feeling of change. The feeling of change permeates throughout the track, as it’s constantly taking new angles to its sound. One thing this song does that also stands out is its use of noise. Loud static can be heard throughout several sections of the songs, ramping up the anxiety associated with change. The ending in particular ends up morphing into a wall of erratic static and unsettling screeches and humming before breaking apart into a scatter of radio noises and static before giving out.

Overall, this album went far above and beyond any expectations I had going in, and I had blast nearly the way through. With highlights such as “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Touch,” “Get Lucky,” and “Contact” this album delivers a musical experience that gains greater value with each listen, as each track is so layered with different sounds and effects. As a final grade and to allow you to go back to doing whatever it may be your doing before reading all this:

I would give this album an 8/10, for an album that goes above and beyond to deliver a deep and highly re-listenable experience.

Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next week to discuss Fractal’s 2015 record Gaia.

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