We are the robots #4

Daft Punk, Robot Rock, 2005

Segundo os Daft Punk, we did not decide to become robots. There was an accident in our studio. We were working on our sampler, and at exactly 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 1999, it exploded. When we regained consciousness, we discovered that we had become robots.

A partir daí, nunca mais largaram as máscaras. I remember when I was a kid, I would watch Superman, and I was super into the feeling of knowing that Clark Kent is Superman and no one knows. We always thought as we were shaping this thing that the fantasy was actually so much more exciting than the idea of being the most famous person in the world, explica Thomas Bangalter, metade dos Daft Punk.

Com o álbum recente Random Access Memories (RAM), convidaram um grupo de músicos prestigiados, incluindo os históricos Nile Rodgers dos Chic e o mago do disco Giorgio Moroder, para gerarem em estúdio o que antes retiravam dos samples, criando a ilusão de que os robots estariam a renegar o passado e a alimentar uma fobia à tecnologia. Ao terceiro album de originais tinham avisado, Human After All (2005). Agora há a caixa de ritmos, o sintetizador e o vocoder, mas o que ressalta porque estranho ao universo Daft Punk, principalmente no teaser do hit Get Lucky, é o inesperado prazer da jam session - ainda que com o brilho ofuscante do metal, é certo. As declarações que fizeram para promoção do álbum indiciam, mais do que uma ideia de aversão à tecnologia, a necessidade de repensar as suas limitações e o papel que poderá ter na supressão dos traços distintivos do criador: Computers were never designed in the first place to become musical instruments. Within a computer, everything is sterile — there’s no sound, there’s no air. It’s totally code. Like with computer-generated effects in movies, you can create wonders. But it’s really hard to create emotion.

Também o crítico Simon Reynolds assinala que a história não é o que parece: There's an irony to Daft Punk's rhetorical framing of RAM as a return to "life", feel, music that breathes, the human touch versus mechanistic, sterile, sonically uniform EDM/ Top 40 dancepop. All the references they're making are to music that in the late 70s would have been regarded, by many people (new wave- punk-postpunk people, but also quite a few funkateers and old soul fans) as  overproduced, polished, prissily arranged, slicked out to such a degree that it verged on the inhuman. And to an extent it was aspiring to a superhuman flawlessness, using session musicians so trained and professional they were virtually robots. That would be the start of the era when musicians played to click tracks. At the time, your typical postpunk or funkateer type would have regarded these records as "airless" and "clinical", cold and gritless.  They would have located the model for sonic integrity in earlier forms of black music (just as people of similar outlook had, in the early 70s, rejected the slick sweet sumptuousness of Philly, Tom Bell, et al as "overcooked", and yearned for the raw of Wilson Pickett, Booker T, etc).

But more than that, these late period Analogue Era records, with their multitracking and overdubs, bum notes edited out and  use of comping to build a perfect vocal take,  are really analogue aspiring to digital: producers using all the analogue means available to them to anticipate the kind of micro-editing and rhythmic precision that would become routine through digital technology. The end-of-Seventies producers and engineers DP venerate for their combination of human touch and supreme craftsmanship would have been the first people to embrace sequencers and MIDI and Fairlights  in the Eighties (in part because they could afford the equipment). In other words, they would have been in a hurry to abandon the human touch and gladly trade "life" for unerring precision and reliability. //

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