How can music that sounds so dated feel so fresh? That is the astonishing thing about Daft Punk’s new masterpiece, Random Access Memories. It drops the cut-up French-house disco snippets from their previous records, and instead embrace the whole disco aesthetic. Live instruments marry synth symphonies and electronic beats. Grooves laid down by Nile Rodgers himself litter the record, and the vocoder voices of Punk pop in between the instrumental disco tracks.
RAM isn’t just a dance record, but includes some real musicality, much like the under-appreciated songwriting ability of disco deities like the Gibb brothers. “Within” is a slow-burn midtempo scorcher. “Touch” is a sweeping, cinematic cry for love. Michael McDonald could sue for the groove of “Beyond.” “Doing It Right” featuring Panda Bear is the real highlight, a mix of vintage “Harder, Faster” Daft Punk hooks mixed with this slower soul simmering under the LP. And “Contact” closes the record with a grand finale approach, mixing digital arpeggios, organic instruments, building chords and grabbing their past sound mixed with the vibe of RAM, and it comes to an explosive ending, leaving us gasping for more… only to make us wait for the next record. Well played, Daft Punk. Well played.