A break from your regularly scheduled programming:
This is not a review: Thoughts on Random Access Memories
Dance music — particularly in all of its electronic strains — is supposed to be agreeable, driven by a deep beat to pump an offer through your blood that your heart and bones can’t refuse. The new Daft Punk record is proving divisive in this context, however, and while I’m not inclined to throw another opinionated rating (“mild 6!” No way, 8.9!”) into the mix, I am interested in exploring what it is about the release that we’re actually reacting to.
Parts of Random Access Memories dwell in esoteric themes that feel too indulgent for the dance floor, even “schmaltzy” as many reviewers have offered. Meanwhile, there are beautiful, sometimes epic movements and grooves across these songs and sonically the album is undeniably silky, as if each track was spun onto tape by a spider, not a robot.
Daft Punk are reaching into the 1970s to inform their prescient view of what’s next. The album curiously employs disco sensibility as a device to show progression, not to simply emulate and celebrate the past, but to recreate the vibe of then as a commentary on where we are now. Curiosity is not simple. It naturally evades abbreviation (á la EDM). An exploration of the past and pondering of the future should be complex, presenting a challenge that packs a reward. Whether or not you find that reward in RAM is a personal matter.
On the surface, Daft Punk’s latest take on dance does feel like it’s coming up short, lacking in brute force what it needs to be the soundtrack of 2013 ragers. It’s missing the adrenaline for the masses, as if shunning the fist pump that has made its way into all corners of our culture. Can a chilled-out sound still be dance, still be party music? The French duo may be offering advice: you need to groove a little more, to find power and ecstasy in the softness — and you need to find a way to do that while acknowledging the future ahead, where robots and all things digital will play an integral role in our lives.
We were talking about our respective relationships with the city as its rough surface wore down our soles. We knew it so well because we had walked through it, on it, with it, for years now.
Tway didn’t often take a sardonic tone, about anything really, but that night he breathed despondence and let it ricochet off all of the steel and glass surrounding us.
“This place,” he said, “I used to think it was beautiful, and it was beautiful. But I’m over it now, I think. Plus, the rent is too damn high.”
“At least the psychosis is free,” I said.
We laughed again, but it seemed to echo for a long time, down and back West 4th street.
Time warps at an inverse relationship to our desire. When enjoying oneself, time speeds up, devours the present more quickly. When in pain and we wish time would move fast, it downshifts, plodding along with meticulous precision. This is why we cant divert our eyes from the clock of life.
Yeah, she had a nice sweater on.
And by “nice” I mean the way it felt, not its fashion or its fit. It felt nice on my cheek as I buried my face in her chest, listening to the sounds of life pulse beneath the refuge of her cleavage. Her heart was bleeding, but in a healthy way, within a controlled system. Mine bled uncontrollably.
This is me as a grown man, receding to a familiar place, an ostrich with his head in the sand. I thought about waiting it out. Maybe it would pass. Maybe I would just bleed out in her arms, becoming a puddle of lifeless juice, leaving my mark on this world as a grotesque stain on her sweater. I didn’t give a fuck about how it looked anyway; I gave so few fucks about those details that I’m not even going to tell you about the color or style of her sweater. In that moment — in that period of my life, actually — all I cared about was substance, the fabric of things. And that grandiose, reaching-for-meaning perspective was killing me.
I’m not familiar with textiles, nor am I sartorially inclined by any means, but I’d guess that her sweater was some cashmere hybrid. Not full-on luxury, just enough to be indulgent yet relatable. It felt incredible, like a pillow feathered with all of the happy memories of my personal past. A pillow I could cry into without shame.
She was my lover and my confidant. I cried and let the tears soak her sweater, leaving just a temporary stain. The permanence of blood would have to wait. I decided right then and there that I had more life to live.
Here’s my theory: if you do not attribute much emotion to a given experience as it occurs, the experience fails to embed itself in the terrain of your mind. All of this is unconscious, of course. I didn’t choose what to let in or out, nor was I incapable of emotion; quite the opposite, actually. For whatever reason though, I grafted very few feelings onto the tapestry of my cerebral cortex to be appreciated at a later date as a memory. I simply released them like sweat, content to let the heat which is a symptom of life’s intense moments evaporate instead of solidify within myself. Precious clips of the past were not deleted from my memory, then. I just never created a cache at all.
I’m trying to write this book but it’s writing me. I’m losing my grip on whether the written story is drawn from my life experiences or if the shit I scribbled down on a napkin last night is influencing the way I move through the world this morning.
Your fear consists of fear and only fear. This may seem an intuitive characterization, but sometimes the most obvious is also the most beautiful:
Fear is a one trick pony.
It wears a formidable face, but fear is always on the ropes, always infected by its own sickness. Fear itself is scared, intrinsically fearful, and only fearful.
We encounter another human in the hallway of an office, or perhaps at school between classes, and ignore their presence; diverting attention to a watch or phone is the default, “new natural” reaction.
We put two animals in the same hallway and observe as they approach one another inquisitively, touch noses, and progress to sniffing each other’s asses.
We ask ourselves, “which species is the beast?”