Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Random Access Memories hovers at the perfect convergence point between Retromania and Energy Flash. Here's my New York Times piece on how Daft Punk fell out of "digital love" and down an analogue time tunnel .

Featuring cameos from Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers and Paul Williams....

Nostalgic both in sound and in theme (songs about lost futures - "Giorgio By Moroder", "Contact" with its sample of the Eugene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon's surface - songs about memory and loss like the gorgeous soft-rock/AOR Todd Edwards-sung "Fragments of Time"), Random Access Memories seems to be a deliberate attempt to turn back time.  It's consciously conceived as a near-total flashback to analogue modes of being. Not just to the methodology of pre-digital recording (live musicians, etc) but to the promotional strategies, the cultural economy of anticipation and delay that characterised the Analogue System

Even Daft Punk’s business strategy could be construed as a throwback. When their contract with Virgin expired several years ago, they could have self-released their own album to their huge fan base via the internet, as Radiohead did with In Rainbows in 2007 and My Bloody Valentine has with m b v earlier this year. But instead the duo signed with Columbia, the most major of major labels, which Thomas Bangalter praised in the interview as “the first record company, the inventor of the 33 rpm record”.  Comparing the record business in its Seventies and Eighties heyday to Hollywood’s studio system, he sounded wistful for the era of  “sonic blockbusters” like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours or Off The Wall, albums that everybody heard or at least heard about.  “Pop culture is the monoculture,” he argued.  “Today the only monoculture is brands.” Using the marketing muscle of an entertainment conglomerate like Columbia/Sony, Random Access Memories  tries to swim against the historical tide of popular culture’s fragmentation into niche markets and micro-genres. 

1 comment:

  1. Phantom of the Paradise is their favorite film? That certainly explains a lot. (About the stage show, at least.)