12/6/10

Daft Punk, Tron & the legacy of Kraftwerk

Daft Punk. Tron Legacy promo photo.
This blog post originally appeared on Faroese art blog listinblog.blogspot.com. Here's a translated version for all you English speaking multitudes out there!

Sci-fi flick Tron: Legacy is out this december and I'm excited and curious to see how it will work out. Not least because of the soundtrack by most excellent french electronica/house duo Daft Punk. The soundtrack is out today and the film premieres in mid-december.

Tron: Legacy is the follow-up to 1982 cult film Tron. Disney is behind both films. The fact that Daft Punk made the music for this, by the look of it, inventive and goofy-in-a-cool-way film is no less than brilliant since the dream of an unlimited future is contained within Daft Punk's music.

Many bands and artists work within the field of electronic music but few have managed to make far-fetched sci-fi sound like plausible reality. Historically, Kraftwerk is probably the best and most convincing example of such a band. They formed the basis to pretty much everything we know as electronic popular music.
Kraftwerk's appearance and music is characterized by a clear and strong concept; four iconic musicians, suits and ties, short cut hair etc. Also, the individual records are characterized by a well-defined theme that opens up a broad range of reflections.
 
Kraftwerk. The Man Machine LP. The first track is called "The Robots". "Robotnik" means "worker" in Russian. A play with ambiguous meaning and visual influence from constructivism and communism.
The four members of Kraftwerk in copied doll/machine/robot form.
To my ears Daft Punk is one of few bands that have managed to lift the legacy of Kraftwerk. When you're listening to Daft Punk the sci-fi dream of a crazy limitless future is alive again. Visually they're also working with some of the same elements as Kraftwerk; a clear, strong concept, that can't be mistaken.

Sure this is a duo but like Kraftwerk Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo have a characteristic look and can also be said to be icons of sorts. They've taken the whole machine and robot aesthetic a step further and always present themselves in robot helmets on press photos, in concerts as well as in other public appearances. Most people don't know what Daft Punk look like in reality. We only recognize them as robots. There are some older photos of them without helmets but we have to go way back to the days when Daft Punk had yet to truly manifest themselves as Daft Punk.
Daft Punk
The fact that the two of them are anonymous and have a robot image is also consistent with the anonymity that is quite widespread in the culture around electronic dance music, where DJs play other people's music for the audience on the dance floor. In most cases, the artist who made the music is absent from its performance. Instead a third person, a DJ, acts as intermediary between sender and receiver. It's a play with anonymity and similar elements can be perceived in the visual style of Daft Punk.
Homework (1997)
The duo has released three albums so far and personally I like them all. Homework (1997) laid out some impressive basics and is a modern classic in house and electronic dance music. Discovery (2001) gets its inspiration and samples from a range of older disco, funk and soul tracks. These sources are worked together into a colorful and catchy futureworld, whose finishing touches came when Daft Punk and Japanese Manga director Leiji Matsumo produced the animated musical film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, that accompanies the full Discovery album. Or maybe the album accompanies the film. Or both.
Discovery (2001)
2005 saw the release of the raw, minimalistic and edgy Human After All, an album that only took six weeks to produce. The record didn't get the same acclaim as the previous ones, but amidst the monotonous grittiness some golden moments occur, and the album can almost be understood as a series of philosophical questions; Where does the human end? Where does the machine begin? What is human? What is human in music? Thomas Bangalter once said that Human After All was an attempt to understand where human feelings reside in music.

Human After All (2005)
 Tron and Tron: Legacy are a whole story of their own. The first Tron movie contained groundbreaking use of computer graphics and is a charming and visually impressive 80's sci-fi film. Jeff Bridges plays the lead role as the protagonist and computer game developer Kevin Flynn, and in Tron: Legacy Gareth Hedlund plays his son Sam Flynn. These are imaginative and colorful films for kids and those young at heart. Those who want to and know how to wonder.

Click the links above for more information. I'm looking forward to seeing the film and not least to hear how the soundtrack works in it. I've listened to it a couple of times already and the epic-ness of it made the hairs on my back stand up on two occasions. But the full disclosure won't come until the film is out.
  Tron: Legacy trailer with one of the Daft Punk tracks from the movie:

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