Random Access Memories

daft punk

Random Access Memories is the fourth studio album by French electronic music duo Daft Punk, which 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.

The album’s title is said to encapsulate Daft Punk’s interest in the past, referencing both technology and the human experience. Bangalter explained the reasoning behind the name: ‘We were drawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive – the random way that memories are stored.’ Regarding the style of the album, they sought a ‘west coast vibe,’ referencing such acts as Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, and the Eagles. Daft Punk also acknowledged that the record pays homage to Michael Jackson, The Cars and Steely Dan. The recording of live synthesizer parts was done in a progressive rock fashion, with the pop sensibilities of Wizzard and The Move.

Daft Punk enlisted various musicians of the 1970s and 80s, which they consider the most appealing era for them. Bangalter clarified that, ‘It’s not that we can’t make crazy futuristic sounding stuff, but we wanted to play with the past.’ The duo noted that the session players were enthusiastic to reunite in the context of the new album and the perceived elegance of the studio locations. Recording took place at Henson Recording Studios, Conway Recording Studios and Capitol Studios in California, Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and an unspecified studio in Paris, France.

Daft Punk made the album in collaboration with Chic frontman Nile Rodgers. He had first met the duo years earlier, during a listening party for the 2001 album ‘Discovery’ in New York, and became good friends. Rodgers commented that a collaboration was ‘something we’ve talked about for a long time. We’ve respected each other endlessly.’ Daft Punk eventually visited Rodgers’ home for an informal jam session, and a formal collaboration would later be undertaken. Singer-songwriter Paul Williams also announced in a 2010 interview that he had worked with the group. Daft Punk were introduced to Williams by a sound engineer whom they were mutually acquainted with.

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