Sun 15 May 2011
Tomorrow I will be driving down to Chicago to visit my parents before I start work on the 31st. The drive is a sizable length, long enough for me to have to strategize about what I am going to listen to. As I scrolled through my library, I came across an album that I have not listened to in a while, one of the greatest electronica albums of all time.
Daft Punk’s album Discovery was first released in early 2001. It is a spectacular specimen of progressive house music, packed with some of the tightest and most iconic beats ever. From this album spawned the short anime film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Daft Punk may be known more for their recent role in the soundtrack of TRON: Legacy, but Interstella 5555 is an incredibly creative imagining of the album as a whole. By itself the album is tight and atmospheric, and when an anime story is overlaid with it, you get a really neat effect.
Interstella 5555 has no dialogue, music, or sound besides the music from Discovery itself. The album plays few interruptions, and in the order of the tracklist. It’s as if the anime was a music video for the whole album.
The anime itself is set in deep space. A rockin’ band is abducted from their home planet of blue people during one of their concerts. Apparently, this band is so great that they bring peace and happiness to everyone in their world — kind of like the ending of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The band is kidnapped during one of their concerts by an evil media conglomerate and sent to Earth, where they are forced to perform for an evil manager. But they are not without hope — one space pilot from their planet is bent on saving the group! Here’s a 10 minute slice of after the band arrives on Earth.
It seems strange and unnatural at first, but I find the storytelling very effective. The music plays a far bigger role in Interstella 5555 than a soundtrack; it serves as the heart of the story. The sad, blank faces of the band members juxtapose beautifully with the energetic song and glitzy animation, illustrating the sense of disillusion the characters feel. They are famous, but they are suffering and not doing what they love. They aren’t even blue anymore! The second song is melodramatic and depicts how overworked and stressed the band members are, but rescue is on the way. Shit is gonna get real. The third track, “Superheroes” features a riveting pace with a killer beat. It’s all the tension and excitement of the great escape from the middle of a giant concert hall followed by a car chase straight out of Die Hard 2.
[wpaudio url="http://kevo.dasaku.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/03-Digital-Love.mp3" text="Digital Love" dl="0"]
Daft Punk’s Discovery marks the group’s first extensive use of synthpop, with enough auto-tuning to make Rebecca Black blush. It creates a completely different feel than traditional singing, making the singing seem more like part of the computerized beat than a human’s voice accompanying said beat. Additionally, “Digital Love” features a beautiful background arrange that makes the track uncannily sentimental.
[wpaudio url="http://kevo.dasaku.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/04-Harder-better-faster-stronger.mp3" text="Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" dl="0"]
“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” features more of the robotic synthpop in “Digital Love”, except the song is far more rhythm-oriented. The entire track is incredibly bouncy, from the beat to the lyrics. Daft Punk always impresses me with how much is going on in each of their tracks. The voice, beat, cymbals, synth, and other various sounds all interact and mix to create a truly unique sound. The segment starting at 0:50 in the sample has a choppy feel to it, fully emphasizing the beat of the song (an effect like this can be created by manipulating the faders to the beat of the song).
[wpaudio url="http://kevo.dasaku.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/10-Voyager.mp3" text="Voyager" dl="0"]
“Voyager” is a far slower and more mellow track. The segment leads off with some chords and drum beats before a deep bass beat kicks in. The arrangement is complex, but feels incredibly tight. Instruments appear and drop in dramatically but naturally. I love the catchy plucked instrument that shows up halfway through, it seems like such a fragile sound that pierces through the thick bass and gives “Voyager” a soul.
Interstella 5555 was a truly unique concept of an anime, showcasing the potential for music, rather than dialogue, to drive storytelling. Sure, there are words in some of the songs, but unlike a musical the lyrics do not serve as dialogue. I love electronic music, and I hope this was a fresh new experience for some of you, despite the anime being almost 10 years old. Until next time, enjoy the music.