Random Access Memories is the upcoming fourth studio album by French electronic music duo Daft Punk, whuch features collaborations with artists including Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, Giorgio Moroder, Pharrell Williams, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, Chilly Gonzales, Panda Bear, and Julian Casablancas.
Daft Punk began experimenting with material for a fourth studio album in 2008, whilst working on the ‘Tron: Legacy score.’ As Thomas Bangalter mentioned at the time, ‘Making music for a movie is very humbling. We’ve been working on some of our music concurrently.’ The duo were dissatisfied with the resulting demos of ‘Random Access Memories,’ which then mostly relied on synthesizers. They eventually struck upon the idea of working with live musicians: ‘We wanted to do what we used to do with machines and samplers, but with people.’ Daft Punk avoided the use of sampling on the album with the exception of the final track, ‘Contact.’ Use of electronics was limited to drum machines that appear on only two tracks, a large modular synthesizer performed live by the duo, and vintage vocoders.
How to Speak Hip is a spoken-word comedy album by improv pioneer Del Close and John Brent, released by Mercury Records in 1959. The album is designed as a satire of language-learning records, where the secret language of the ‘hipster’ is treated as a foreign language. Part of the joke, however, is that it actually does a good job of describing the Beat Generation/Beatnik sub-culture: Basic concepts such as ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ are taught, as well as vocabulary building (‘dig,’ ‘dig it,’ ‘dig yourself, baby,’ ‘dig the chick,’ ‘dig the cat,’ ‘What a drag!’). Social notes are presented as for many language courses, and later in the album, the teacher (Close) is taken on field trips into the secret life of the hipster (Brent). However, the hipster rebels against participating in the teaching tool, leading to a humorously compromised teaching style.
A obsession with hipster slang had been prevalent in the mainstream culture since the late-30s/1940s when jazz music became a popular form. Cab Calloway released a recording of a song called the ‘Hepsters Dictionary’ in 1938 (along with a published booklet). In the film ‘Song of the Thin Man’ from 1947 the ‘straight’ Nick and Nora have trouble following the jargon of the jazz musicians in the story. During the 1950s, as people became conscious of the Beat Generation phenomena, amid fears of juvenile delinquency, there was an increased urgency to understand the language spoken by the new youth culture. The album came with a booklet expanding on the concepts discussed in the album, providing a supplementary reading list, and so on. It was was illustrated in a style of line drawing popular throughout the 50s (similar to the early commercial work of Andy Warhol). The woodcuts used as illustrations on the LP were stolen from Del’s Chicago apartment in the 1980s. Brian Wilson can be heard fondly mentioning this album in the box set ‘The Pet Sounds Sessions.’
Remain in Light is the fourth studio album by American New Wave band Talking Heads, released in 1980. It was recorded at locations in the Bahamas and the United States and was produced by the quartet’s long-time collaborator Brian Eno. Two singles were released from the album: ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and ‘Houses in Motion’ as well as promotional single ‘Crosseyed and Painless.’ The members of Talking Heads wanted to make an album that dispelled notions of frontman and chief lyricist David Byrne leading a back-up band. They decided to experiment with African polyrhythms and, with Eno, recorded the instrumental tracks as a series of samples and loops, a novel idea at the time.
Additional musicians were frequently used throughout the studio sessions. The lyric writing process slowed the album’s progress, but was concluded after Byrne drew inspiration from academic literature on Africa. The artwork was crafted with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s computers and designing company M&Co. Following the album’s completion, Talking Heads expanded to nine members for promotional concerts. ’Remain in Light’ was widely acclaimed by critics. Praise centered on its cohesive merging of disparate genres and sonic experimentation. It is often considered Talking Heads’ magnum opus
Sun is the ninth studio album by American musician Cat Power, released in 2012. Her first album of all-original material since 2006′s ‘The Greatest.’ Work on the album initially began soon after the release of ‘The Greatest,’ with Marshall announcing the album’s title as far back as 2006 in an interview with ‘The New York Times,’ where she also claimed that the entire album had already been written. She decided to finance the recording of ‘Sun’ herself, following financial difficulties arising from the cancellation of a lengthy tour in 2006 due to her hospitalization at the psychiatric ward of Mount Sinai Hospital in NY. She was later declared bankrupt, claiming ‘I had my house in foreclosure and I hadn’t paid taxes in two years. So to get away from people second guessing me and wondering what I was going to do with the advance for this album, I said, ‘I’m going to fucking pay for this shit myself.’ I knew that’d be the only way I could control things. So I cashed out my retirement fund.’ Recording began sometime in 2007, with Marshall building a studio in her Malibu home to record and produce new songs herself. However, much of the material recorded up to this point was later abandoned when she decided it was ‘too painful and personal to put out,’ stating ‘I was writing all these really slow guitar songs, and my friend said, ‘This is like depressing old Cat Power,’ which made me feel like I got shot. I didn’t work for eight months after that.’
America is a 2012 studio album by American electronic musician Dan Deacon. The album cover is a photo of Lake Placid. America was recorded using both electronic sounds and live recordings. An anechoic (echo-free) chamber was built in Baltimore to record the orchestral track ‘Rail.’ Deacon felt that electronic beats were limited by a lack of flaws; he said that he wanted the ‘slight imperfection in timing’ human musicians have. Because he wanted the album to sound ‘more like a rock record’ than an electronic one, Deacon enlisted King Crimson engineer Simon Heyworth to master the album. In an interview with NPR, Deacon said that the album was inspired by the politics and geography of the United States, saying: ‘The music is definitely inspired by geography. I do many, many cross-country trips a year because I tour, and it’s hard to — you could really despise every aspect of what you think American culture is but it’s hard to deny that the land itself is beautiful. Do you know what I mean?’ Deacon described the album as ‘political,’ saying that the lyrics were ‘[..] inspired by my frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of.’ However, he also said that he did not want the political nature to be overt, arguing that people do not respond to overt political messages.
‘Rail’ was inspired by an empty train ride Deacon was on while traveling from Seattle to New York City, as well as an orchestral work Deacon wrote for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. ”Manifest’ was about figuring out where I fit in regards to the way my mind perceives me,’ while ”True Thrush’ was about confusion and loss of self and the homogenization of culture.’ The track ‘USA I: Is A Monster’ took its name from the rock band The USA Is a Monster. The music video for ‘True Thrush’ was directed by Ben O’ Brien and Deacon, and featured teams of people playing a skit-based game of telephone.
The Point! is a fable and the sixth album by American songwriter and musician Harry Nilsson about a boy named Oblio, the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village, where by law everyone and everything had to have a point. According to Nilsson: ‘I was on acid and I looked at the trees and I realized that they all came to points, and the little branches came to points, and the houses came to point. I thought, ‘Oh! Everything has a point, and if it doesn’t, then there’s a point to it.” There have been, so far, at least three different renditions of The Point!, each featuring songs written by Nilsson to accompany the story, including an animated film, an album, and a stage musical.
The Basement Tapes is a 1975 studio album by Bob Dylan and The Band. The songs featuring Dylan’s vocals were recorded in 1967, eight years before the album’s release, at houses in and around Woodstock, NY, where Dylan and the Band lived. Although most of the Dylan songs had appeared on bootleg records, ‘The Basement Tapes’ marked their first official release. When Columbia Records prepared the album, eight songs recorded solely by the Band were added to sixteen songs taped by Dylan and the Band. Subsequently, the format of the 1975 album has led critics to question the omission of some of Dylan’s best-known 1967 compositions and the inclusion of material by the Band that was not recorded in Woodstock.
During his world tour of 1965–66, Dylan was backed by a five-member rock group, the Hawks, who would later become famous as the Band. After Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident in 1966, the Hawks’ members gravitated to the vicinity of Dylan’s home in the Woodstock area to collaborate with him on music and film projects. While Dylan was concealed from the public’s gaze during an extended period of convalescence in 1967, they recorded more than 100 tracks together, comprising original compositions, contemporary covers, and traditional material. Dylan’s new style of writing moved away from the urban sensibility and extended narratives that had characterized his most recent albums, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Blonde On Blonde,’ toward songs that were more intimate and which drew on many styles of traditional American music. While some of the basement songs are humorous, others dwell on nothingness, betrayal, and a quest for salvation. In general, they possess a rootsy quality anticipating the Americana genre. For some critics, the songs, which circulated widely in unofficial form, mounted a major stylistic challenge to rock music in the late sixties.
The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends is a collaborative studio album by The Flaming Lips. Recorded throughout 2011 and 2012, the album was released as a limited edition on vinyl for Record Store Day on April 21, 2012. Four songs from the album were previously released on collaborative EPs in 2011. Following their last full-length album, 2009′s ‘Embryonic,’ the band produced several EPs with other artists including Neon Indian, Lightning Bolt, Prefuse 73, and Yoko Ono. Four tracks from these sessions appear on the album. The remaining seven songs were recorded at different times and locations, and are exclusive to the LP. The Erykah Badu version of Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,’ was a result of Lips frontman Wayne Coyne’s unsolicited calls to the singer. Badu was initially opposed to covering the well-known 1972 song, but Coyne was able to convince her. Other pairings resulted from the iniative of other artists, such as Kesha, who had expressed interest in working with the Flaming Lips while visiting the band’s hometown, Oklahoma City. She contacted Coyne by text message on his birthday. Her track, ’2012 (You Must Be Upgraded),’ was recorded in Kesha’s home studio in Nashville.
Mainstream artists such as Kesha and Coldplay’s Chris Martin share space with more experimental artists such as Lightning Bolt and Prefuse 73. The band released the double LP in vinyl form in a 10,000 unit run. Each disc has a unique pattern. Coyne has stated that he has requested and been given blood samples from some of the album’s collaborators. Coyne claims to have blood from Kesha and Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo. He plans to place small amounts of the blood sandwiched into the vinyl of limited editions of the records, and make these available to ‘interested rich Flaming Lips people.’
Let It Be… Naked is a remixed and edited version of the 1970 ‘Let It Be album’ by The Beatles released in 2003. The album is presented in a form which Paul McCartney considers closer to its original artistic vision: to ‘get back’ to the rock and roll sound of their early years rather than the orchestral overdubs and embellishments which were added by Phil Spector in the production of the final ‘Let It Be’ album. McCartney in particular was always dissatisfied with the ‘Wall of Sound’ production style of the Phil Spector remixes, especially for his song ‘The Long and Winding Road,’ which he believed was ruined by the process. George Harrison gave his approval for the Naked project before he died. McCartney’s attitude contrasted with Lennon’s from over two decades earlier. In his 1971 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon had defended Spector’s work, saying, ‘He was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling to it ever, and he made something of it.’
Pre-Millennium Tension is the third album from Tricky, released in 1996. Following the unexpected success of ‘Maxinquaye,’ Tricky made a much darker, more paranoid sonic landscape for this release, resulting in a more abrasive, and far less accessible album. It features longtime collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, and former Mama’s Boy’s guitarist Pat McManus. The album was recorded at Grove Studios in Jamaica, possibly explaining the heavy Rastafarian influence. Parts were also recorded at Platinum Islands Studio, New York.
Tricky said in an interview with ‘Raygun’ that he wanted to make an ‘out-an-out punk record’ and that ‘I thought it was going be heavier. I thought it was just going to be an out-an-out punk record. But you end up straying. What I wanted to do was a total fast album. Some of the tracks are fast and hard, but they didn’t come out like that.’ He also said that he hated being stuck with the trip-hop tag: ‘That’s why I did ‘Nearly God’, and that’s why I did ‘Pre-Millennium Tension.’ You can’t see them as trip-hop albums. So I just keep running away from it. But the farther you run, it’s still there. They’ll find you.’
Modulations is a multi-media exploration into the history of electronic music, consisting of a documentary film, its soundtrack album, and a book. The project was directed by Iara Lee, the maker of the documentary film ‘Synthetic Pleasures’ (which explored the implications of virtual reality, biotechnology, plastic surgery, and mood-altering drugs). People interviewed in the film include Robert Moog, DJ Funk, and Frankie Knuckles. The book was edited by Peter Shapiro and features: Rob Young on the pioneers of electronic music, Simon Reynolds on krautrock, Peter Shapiro on disco & post-punk, Kodwo Eshun on house, David Toop on hip hop, Mike Rubin on techno, Chris Sharp on jungle, Tony Marcus on ambient, Kurt Reighley on downtempo, and Michael Berk on the technology of electronic music. Also interviewed is industrial music founder Genesis P-Orridge.
‘Space Jazz: The soundtrack of the book Battlefield Earth’ is a music album and soundtrack companion to the novel ‘Battlefield Earth’ by L. Ron Hubbard, released in 1982. Hubbard composed the music for the album. A 1983 press release put out by the Church of Spiritual Technology subsidiary company Author Services Inc. marketed the concept album as ‘the only original sound track ever produced for a book before it becomes a movie.’ The album includes performances by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Nicky Hopkins and Gayle Moran. The album included music from the Fairlight CMI synthesizer; it was one of the first professional uses of this device. A demonstration of the ‘computer space jazz’ soundtrack was one of the festival displays at the 1982 US Festival rock concert in California.
Biophilia is the musical project and forthcoming eighth full-length studio album from Icelandic singer Björk. The album is ‘partly recorded’ on an iPad and will be released in the form of a series of apps. Biophilia will be the world’s ‘first app album’ in collaboration with Apple. Björk has described the project as a multimedia collection ‘encompassing music, apps, internet, installations, and live shows.’ Material from the album will debut during a concert series to be held this summer at the Manchester International Festival. ‘Biophilia’ for iPad will include around ten separate apps, all housed within one ‘mother’ app. Each of the smaller apps will relate to a different track from the album, allowing people to explore and interact with the song’s themes or even make a completely new version of them. Scott Snibbe, an interactive artist was commissioned by Björk in the summer of 2010 to produce the app, as well as the images for the live shows (which will combine his visuals with National Geographic imagery, mixed live from iPads on the stage).
For the song, ‘Virus,’ the app will feature a close-up study of cells being attacked by a virus to represent what Snibbe calls: ‘A kind of a love story between a virus and a cell. And of course the virus loves the cell so much that it destroys it.’ The interactive game challenges the user to halt the attack of the virus, although the result is that the song will stop if the player succeeds. In order to hear the rest of the song, the players will have to let the virus take its course. Using some artistic license, the cells will also mouth along to the chorus. Björk is determined to fuse different elements together, be it juxtaposing a female choir from Greenland with the bleeps and glitches of electronic music pioneers Matmos during the Vespertine tour, or meshing soaring strings and jagged beats on ‘Homogenic,’ that ‘helps explain the power and success of Björk’s collaborations.’
Watch the Throne is a collaborative studio album by Jay-Z and Kanye West, set to be released August 1, 2011. Production began in Bath, England and continued during available times in Jay-Z’s and West’s respective schedules at recording locations in Australia, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles. Parts of the album were recorded at the Mercer Hotel and Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York City. In an interview, Jay-Z discussed their insistence on recording in person, stating ‘If we were gonna do it, we were gonna do it together. No mailing it in.’ The album features guest appearances by Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Mr Hudson, with production by Kanye West along with The Neptunes, The RZA, Q-Tip, Swizz Beatz, and others.
The album’s cover and artwork were both designed by Italian fashion designer Riccardo Tisci.
Kid A is the fourth studio album by the English rock band Radiohead, released in 2000. Despite the lack of an official single or music video as publicity, ‘Kid A’ became the first Radiohead release to debut at number one in the US. This success was credited variously to a unique marketing campaign, the early Internet leak of the album, and anticipation after the band’s 1997 album, ‘OK Computer.’
‘Kid A’ was recorded in Paris, Copenhagen, Gloucestershire and Oxford with producer Nigel Godrich. The album’s songwriting and recording were experimental for Radiohead, as the band replaced their earlier ‘anthemic’ rock style with a more electronic sound. Influenced by Krautrock, jazz, and 20th century classical music, Radiohead abandoned their three-guitar line-up for a wider range of instruments on ‘Kid A,’ using keyboards, the Ondes martenot (an early electronic musical instrument), and, on certain compositions, strings and brass. Kid A also contains more minimal and abstract lyrics than the band’s previous work.