Next week sees the release of "Random Access Memories," the jaw-dropping new album by French electro robots Daft Punk. The album is a sprawling, visionary, singularly weird affair, elegantly toggling between at least a half dozen genres and styles, with live instrumentation that simultaneously suggests music's distant past while boldly pushing it forward. It's one of those timeless, album-with-a-capital-A albums, and in the lead-up to the release, the reclusive Frenchmen, who appear in public as glittery androids, have been granting some rare interviews. In one of these interviews, the pair suggest that they might be collaborating with one of their biggest heroes – director Brian De Palma.
In an extensive, gorgeously produced interview with Pitchfork that's just as gloriously overstuffed as the album itself, the discussion turned to "Touch," the centerpiece of "Random Access Memories" and probably the single most gorgeous piece of music you'll hear all year. It's an 8-minute odyssey, both joyous and melancholy, that features lyrics and vocals by Paul Williams, the illustrious singer-songwriter responsible for some of the biggest hits of the seventies (Williams also contributed the lyrics to "Beyond").
It's been noted that Daft Punk (nee Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo) are huge fans of "Phantom of the Paradise," the De Palma movie Williams wrote songs for and co-starred in. On one of the great "Creators Project" mini-documentaries on the album's many storied collaborators (among them: Nile Rodgers, Panda Bear, and Pharrell), Williams said that the band initially approached them because of the influence of 'Phantom:' "There's a bit of a connection, based on my conversations with these two wonderful gentlemen, with a film called 'Phantom of the Paradise,' where the mask and working behind the mask may have been born." And, indeed, the band's mechanical doppelgangers look a whole lot like the titular Phantom's mask, particularly Bangalter's silver model. Also, another epic song on the album centers around one of De Palma's more famous collaborators: "Scarface" composer Giorgio Moroder.
But in the interview with Pitchfork, they take this appreciation a step further. According to Pitchfork, "at one point, Bangalter let it slip that he and de Homem-Christo recently had a meeting with De Palma to 'discuss some things,' though he declined to divulge any specifics." Begin wild speculation… now!
They could have been talking to De Palma about a number of things, everything from directing a video to one of their songs ("Instant Crush," with its sexily squeaky guitar line, is pretty "Body Double"-like) to something more ambitious. The "in our wildest dreams" scenario would obviously be some kind of De Palma-helmed "Phantom of the Paradise" follow-up, with Williams contributing new songs backed by Daft Punk. The band has always been fascinated with film, with Bangalter contributing music to Gasper Noe's "Irreversible" and "Enter the Void" and Daft Punk doing score to Disney's 2010 "TRON Legacy" (although if M83's experience with the same director/situation is any indication, that might not have been so fun), so it might not be so much of a leap.
Whatever the band ends up doing next, we're in. "Random Access Memories" comes out next week but it's streaming now on iTunes. Watch the Collaborators video with Paul Williams below.