Jonah Bromwich is a jaarhead.
An awkward metaphor for you: Random Access Memories is like a chair made out of oak, crafted by those with knowledge of the ancient and highly esoteric craft of chair-making. It’s a solid, dependable album and it’s about as exciting as a well-made place to park it.
Spoiler alert, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are getting older. That doesn’t mean that they can’t make great music anymore; it just means that they’re unlikely to be going around revolutionizing things much.
So leave it up to Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington (formally known as Darkside) to push this thing into 2013, merging the ideas and melodies on Random Access Memories with Jaar’s bedroom collagism. As the high-art analogue to your favorite purple producer (Rustie, Shlohmo, Hemsworth), Jaar has a knack for keeping important structures of sound in place, while welding spare parts in to lend a given piece of music new form. For evidence, look no further than his remix of “Get Lucky,” (which was likely the first song you were set to explore here anyway.) Darkside merge blues guitar into the groove, and slow down Pharrell’s voice, adding a whole set of interesting electronic touches without removing the essential catchiness of the song. It’s everything a remix should be: a separate song that retains the appeal of its antecedent.
Other examples of the form: the Darkside version of “Give Life Back to Music” is no longer a rousing, somewhat trite battle call. Instead, the voice gets drowned in the mix and the added elements float freely together. At the three minute mark, you get a sense of the original’s smoothness, but the pleasure is multiplied by the contrast. And “Doin’ It Right” does it better, reducing the culty, drugged-out vibe of the original to actual tribal drums and a series of synths that evince a hint of the original’s melody. The vocal here sounds a bit lunatic, a more exciting and danceable way to actually do it right.
Of course, it’s a bit unfair to proclaim the Darkside version as being better than the original. After all, Daft Punk did the majority of the work here, providing the raw material, coming up with the melodies. To give all the credit to a couple of kids who dirtied up the sound, well, it’s a little ridiculous.
Thing is though, what Jaar and Harrington are doing here is what Bangalter and Homem-Christo used to do. Slide along on the surface of things, reappropriating the best bits with a little bit of that brand new. The point is not that the result sounds more like a Daft Punk album than Random Access Memories, but rather that Darkside were were able to create their signature sound by using the album as a foundation — the Daft Punk created their sugary dance pop from every source at their disposal.