I am well aware that the world does not need another post about Daft Punk

by Steve

Men in record shop

Random Access Memories is a fascinating album in theory. Dance music has generally been all about sampling, creating new sounds from old sources. And those samples often produce some sort of uncanny feeling, as you’ve kind-of heard that sound before, but might not be able to place it, and even if you can it doesn’t necessarily sound like how you remember it sounding. There is an appeal to that textural borrowing, it is almost a short-cut to creating a certain feel, or a way of toying with those feelings.

Daft Punk, meanwhile, have taken sampling to its natural conclusion. They have ditched sampling old songs to create the sound and feel that they want, instead bringing the original musicians, such as Nile Rodgers and Michael Jackson’s session players to recreate the sound anew. It feels like the ultimate form of sampling – if you have the original musician in the room you can get them to produce whatever you want.

Now, this isn’t really a realistic model for 99 per cent of artists. Not everyone has Daft Punk’s address book, or their budget. Economically, this kind of approach can only work for your major acts. However, it seems like a rather clever approach economically, if you afford the initial outlay. The real money is in publishing rights. By avoiding samples, Daft Punk can claim far more of those lucrative payments than if that money was being siphoned off to pay off the acts that had been sampled. So, in the long run Daft Punk are playing a smart business game.

Meanwhile, those 99 per cent of acts who can’t get Nile Rodgers to play on their album will stick to samples, as the cheaper option, and in the long-run lose out on the real money in publishing rights. The poor bands get poorer and the rich bands get richer.

The act Darkside have released an album that remixes the whole of Random Access Memories. Using the moniker Daftside, they have produced Random Access Memories Memories, which is pretty much the perfect title. While Daft Punk’s album falsifies memories by creating something that sounds old but isn’t, Daftside take something new and make it sound old, actually sound like a memory. The pitch is shifted down, some tracks drag and lope. There is static and distortion rather than sheen and polish. It is a fascinating re-interpretation, as it is like a tired mind after being up all night attempting to piece together what Random Access Memories actually sounded like. There is a lethargy and hard-to-place sadness that feels genuinely nostalgic and wistful.

Random Access Memories is an uncanny waxwork. Random Access Memories Memories is that waxwork several years later, abandoned in a warehouse and starting to melt.

There is something invigorating about one artist playing off another like this. It made me want to listen to Daft Punk again. Both albums inform each other, both have enough about them to stand up to such scrutiny. Funny that the more interesting album is the one that samples the album without samples. But now this post is probably just collapsing in on itself.

You can listen to the Random Access Memories Memories here:

Image from the Library of Congress, via Flickr