For me, Daft Punk‘s 2001 release, Discovery, is the album of my youth. To this day, opening dance masterpiece ‘One More Time’ remains one of my favourite all time tracks, due entirely to it’s energy and the power screaming out from it’s anthemic refrain. Even when I re-visit the album now I still feel as moved as I did the first time I heard it. I suppose that’s the sign of a truly great album; it continues to educate and surprise.
Two years after the release of their hugely influential debut Homework, Daft Punk set to work on a new album which they hoped would sonically encapsulate the idea of discovering and exploring life as a child. The resulting 14 track collection has a playful and more gentle feel to it than some of the more raw moments on Homework. Although trademark Daft Punk traits can be clearly heard throughout, such as the crisp 4/4 rhythm on tracks like ‘Face To Face’ and ‘Verdis Quo’, a more synth-heavy approach allows the album to gracefully flow through a number of themes and styles.
For example, one minute the energetic ‘Aerodynamic’ bursts into life in an explosion of instrumental power, the next, the listener is being carried by the lullaby of ‘Nightvision’, only to be awoken later by the high tempo ‘Short Circuit’. One key track that displays this wide spectrum is ‘Too Long’; a ten minute ride from soft rhythms and vocals, culminating in a thumping gem of a house track. The presence of vocals is another important element on this album, featuring 6 tracks with lyrical content. The vocals enhance the overall impression of the album as a stronger, more commercially accessible collection. This can certainly be said for nuggets such as the soulful ‘Something About Us’, the achingly infectious ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, and most prominently, the highly accessible and joyful ‘Digital Love’. As with Homework before it, Discovery relies heavily on sampled grooves from late 70’s/early 80’s disco and funk, but does so with such an elegance that makes these tracks sound fresh.
However, it is easy to see how many core fans of the group’s early work would be turned off by this new sound. Despite it’s grasp on youth and basic emotions, it leaves behind the rough and raw sound found amongst the highlights of Homework. By comparison, Discovery is arguably over-produced in terms of the layering of effects and synths. I’d counter that Discovery clearly marks an evolution, not only in the band’s general trademark sound but also in sampled dance music altogether. If Homework was influential for its bare musicality, Discovery must surely be more inspiring for it’s visionary craft and grasp on what dance music is all about; being young and carefree.