Teleporting and Time-Traveling with ‘Random Access Memories’

Daft Punk apparently had a hot date with The Colbert Report last night, but as the Internet has virally illustrated, fate (and a l’il legal snafu) tore them apart. Did a dejected Stephen Colbert throw himself a pity party? Hell, no. He threw himself a dance party, yo. And how.

Last Spring, I was among the many hungry fans who counted down the days until Random Access Memories was released, finding equal parts relief and excitement upon discovering that the album really was as good as we’d all hoped. In fact, it was better.

Random Access MemoriesBut then Rolling Stone published this article about the music, the act and the men behind the helmets — Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter — and things got weird in my ears. An album that already sounded incredible started to feel incredible, too. 

Much of this is on account of Daft Punk’s respect for the power of place, as evidenced by the two excerpts below. It was upon reading them that I came to believe that Homem-Christo and Bangalter are not only “Robot Overlords” (Rolling Stone‘s words), they are also teleporting time-travelers. Obviously.

Exhibit A:

Giorgio Moroder, the disco godfather, delivered a spoken-word performance into three microphones from three different decades. “Thomas has superears,” Moroder says. “I asked the engineer, ‘Who will ever hear the difference between these microphones?’ He told me, ‘Nobody. But the boys will.'”

Exhibit B:

They flew to legendary recording studios in New York and Los Angeles, like Electric Lady and Henson, to capture the unique sounds and vibes of the classic rooms. Wherever they went, they kept the mics running, capturing freewheeling jams – “We had Ampex reels everywhere,” says de Homem-Christo – that they edited later using Pro Tools, conjuring songs out of the footage “like we were making a film,” Bangalter says. “There are songs that span two and a half years and five different studios.

Even if “the boys” (as the engineer in Exhibit A calls them, which I love) managed to create nearly identical sounds in one studio setting, even if it seemed to sound the same to the average ear, could it possibly feel the same as the work compiled on Random Access Memories? I doubt it. By imagining the scope of the record’s production, listening becomes a sensory experiment, a multi-dimensional experience spanning space and time and place that leaves me wondering whether my brain’s perception of a sound actually changes when I understand the sound’s origin or origins (and the creator’s relationship to those origins).

If Bangalter and Homem-Christo turn out not to be teleporters, I maintain that at the very least they offer listeners a time-traveling teleportation device: non-linear output from geographically diverse sources facilitating an internal experience best expressed, externally, by compulsive dancing.

So dance on, Colbert. You can’t help it! And remember, there’s always next time — in this dimension or, you know, some other one.

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