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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories (Drumless Edition)’: Giving life back to music

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Have you ever listened to an album for the first time and wished with all your heart that you could listen to it for the first time again? In the proverbial dark ages of my life — 2019, sophomore year of high school — I discovered Daft Punk in a meaningful way. Approaching complete mental disrepair from AP Physics I, I decided to switch up my usual study playlist of indie pop with the occasional Taylor Swift interjection and take a risk with my “Discover Weekly” tab on Spotify. With minimal progress made on my physics homework, the 2013 hit “Get Lucky (ft. Pharrell Williams)” played into my broken headphones. While I didn’t live in the so-called world of techno-electronica musical obsession, something about that one moment, ironically in tears over the physics of sound waves, led me to a musical epiphany.

“Get Lucky” sits snugly in the middle of Daft Punk’s final album “Random Access Memories,” an album that quickly became a staple in my Spotify Wrapped. It seemed like a pipe dream to expect anything from the musical duo after their breakup in 2021, yet a surprise re-release of Random Access Memories on its 10th anniversary this year injected new life into a now-defunct Daft Punk. The later release of an additional “Drumless Edition” removed a key player in the world of electronic music: percussion. Yet these masters of modern production, as the first song on this album’s tracklist suggests, were able to “Give Life Back to Music” through the entire musical makeup of a beloved electronic album. 

Ironically enough, this drumless re-release coincided with one of my Physical Chemistry midterms this semester — my rediscovery of Daft Punk was once again elicited by a teary haze of total confusion. Sitting in Hesburgh library, cross-eyed over matrices and operators, I put on my headphones and listened to this new version for the first time.

The drumless edition of Daft Punk’s classic hits creates an entirely alternate emotional makeup for each song. Oftentimes, heavy production distracts listeners from feeling-dense and otherwise purple prose; when all the heavy drums and sound bites are stripped away, listeners are left with the iconic melodic keyboard integral to Daft Punk’s musical identity, electric instrumentals and iconic vocalists. Damped percussion directs the album’s focus to its funk elements and entirely shifts its focus as a thematic entity. The tone of the entire work becomes entirely more human

My favorite songs seemed to achieve some sort of musical puberty, maturing into a more succinct sense of self. Intimate reflections like “Within” and “Touch” become even more raw, transitioning from their electronic edge to piano ballads. Pop-centric songs with mumbly lyrics like “Instant Crush (ft. Julian Casablancas)” turn your listening to the once unclear lyrics. Your comprehension of the song’s meaning changes entirely. The final song, “Contact,” once again sums up beautifully the album’s tone through its musicality and emphasis on the instrumental elements previously covered by percussion. While radio hits like “Get Lucky (ft. Pharrell Williams)” still sound fairly similar, if not a bit muted compared to their original iterations, the general shift of this album to focus on the ever-changing identity of music gives each listener an individual listening experience once more with this subtle yet powerful adjustment.

Just like in AP Physics I, Daft Punk carried me through my Physical Chemistry I blunders, so I suppose I have them to thank for my continued endeavors in science (and an absolutely killer playlist). If you’re looking for something to tune out your finals dread or simply just want a truly amazing album to listen to in the coming weeks, give the original “Random Access Memories” a listen. Then prepare to have your perspective on its sound changed entirely by “Random Access Memories (Drumless Edition).”