These only sound weird on paper.
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Who knew that Daft Punk would go from being at the cutting edge of house music in Homework and Discovery to putting out a self-indulgent disco throwback?
Random Access Memories, released to much confusion in 2013 because peeps expected another modern dance album, features a bucketload of contributors. Pharell Williams takes over the vocals on the album’s two instant classics, ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’, Giorgio Moroder gets the chance to tell his life story before ‘Giorgio by Moroder’ cracks into gear, Julian Casablancas proves that he can actually be good without The Strokes behind him (sorry, The Voidz) on ‘Instant Crush’ and Nile Rodgers (of Chic fame) gets a second shot at fame in underpinning almost the entire album with his ingeniously sexy disco riffs.
As the band describe it, Random Access Memories was an attempt “to do with people, what we’ve done with samples and machines”. There’s only one sample in this entire album – and that’s in the final track, and funnily enough it’s from Australian band The Sherbs – with the entirety of the album being constructed from session recordings of a live band. Those recordings were then chopped up, manipulated and turned into songs.
In the end, Daft Punk delivered an album that delves into the notions of creativity, innovation and cultural memory while also playing into the French duo’s own stage identity as musical robots from the future. What I’m trying to say is the album title is very apt.
Dave Grohl, despite legitimising questionable music taste with his super successful Foo Fighters, is actually kvlt metal deep down inside. He proved that with Probot, a one-off collaboration album he made in conjunction with a slew of old school metallers.
Lemmy (who later rocked up in the video for White Limo), Max Cavalera, King Diamond and many more make an appearance on Probot, which despite the conspicuous contributions of the various guests, is quite a cohesive and easily digestible record.
Unfortunately, Dave Grohl has hinted that he won’t revisit the project, saying that Probot was an opportunity for him to team up with the artists that influenced him growing up. If only he had made Probot his main act, and left singing about monkey wrenches and learning to fly to a one-off LP, the world would have been better.
King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine
King Creosote, the Scottish folk guitarist fella, hooked up in a purely musical way with ambient techno wunderkind Jon Hopkins to create the amazing Diamond Mine.
A perfect blend of both artist’s home genres, Diamond Mine is a concept album attempting to capture the atmosphere of Fife, a region in Scotland. The album actually starts off with a field recording of a restaurant, with a waitress saying a very catchy “You orright?” in a deep Scottish brogue.
‘Bats in the Attic’ is the showcase of this album, with King Creosote’s original folk track being subtly and slowly subsumed by Hopkins’ creative juices. Beginning with the original guitar crackling the song into life, simple but strong piano chords slowly dominate the background of the song, before all the musical tools are assembled into a pleasingly cathartic crescendo.
Sunn 0))) and Scott Walker, Soused
Cool title, weird fucking album. If you know either of these artists, that’s not surprising.
Sunn 0))) – you’re meant to read that in your head as just ‘sun’ – is a big name in the ambient and drone metal circles (pretty much the same circle to be honest), and for this record he teamed up with Walker, a bloke who was big in the 70s singing pop songs but has now reinvented himself as an avant-garde musician.
Sticking true to Sunn 0)))’s roots, Soused has five tracks that total up to 48 minutes of music, and each track is truly weird, with a desolate soundscape being paired up Walker’s deep baritone wailing. Somehow, somehow, it works, even if it’s not for everyone. And if it’s not for you, well at least you know music can be that weird.
This is where the dream began for some; the 1999 concert recording of Metallica playing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. In their last good act before ‘tallica went down the path of St. Anger and band counselling, the band sat down with composer Michael Kamen (who has since sadly passed away) to meld their thrash metal with a symphony.
There are some songs here that just sound like Metallica playing with violins and timpani and all the rest shoehorned into the rhythm section; songs like ‘Sad But True’, ‘Of Wolf And Man’ (eye-rollingly introduced by James Hetfield as “Of Wolfgang And Man”) and ‘The Memory Remains’ spring to mind.
There are other songs that really explode to life with the backing of a symphony, and that’s where this album becomes magical. The first three songs – a completely orchestral ‘Ecstasy of Gold’, the instrumental ‘Call of Ktulu’ and the old staple ‘Master of Puppets’ – are ear-poppingly executed, as are ‘One’ and ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’.
Metallica aren’t the first band to have this idea, as Pink Floyd had already put out Concerto for Group and Orchestra 30 years earlier, but that doesn’t matter cos, y’know, Metallica did it.