When Daft Punk burst on to the North American consciousness in late 1996, for most of us it was via the mind-blowing, genre smashing throb of their first single released through Virgin Records, Da Funk. Combined with its surreal video, convincing most of their fans that the group consisted of one dude in a dog mask, it was a fitting way to introduce the French lads to the world and the critical and commercial response to the single was explosive.
The single was, however, not the first or even second time the duo had appeared on wax. After signing their very first record contract with Scotland’s Soma Records imprint, their first E.P. began making its rounds and is the real source of the early buzz behind the two mysterious producers. Entitled “The New Wave“, this is the first official release by Daft Punk and while it may not quite have had the success of “Da Funk“, it was our first introduction to what would become some of the most crucial components of Daft Punk’ signature sound.
The title track of the E.P. is a raw, almost primitive slice of techno delivered at a much faster tempo than we would see on later releases. Appearing in its original form and an edited version, the sonic sheen that would emerge quickly via their future releases is not quite there, but plenty of their other trademark flourishes take the forefront: the heavily compressed sound of the track, booming percussion, and the in-your-face feel of the mix were all early clues as to where they group might take their sound to next. The track does itself sound like an unfinished production, but also strikingly similar to a cut from their debut album that was heavily featured in their live sets at the time. Flipping the record over would provide us with the answers we were seeking.
Side 2 of the E.P. opens with “Assault”, a slightly more polished, but again minimal piece of hypnotic techno. You don’t hear quite as many layers of sounds in this one compared to “The New Wave“, but the track does serve its purpose; repetitive, late-night, almost acid-sounding techno with a few switch-ups on the drums to keep things moving.
The final track would also prove to be the final mix of “The New Wave” complete with a new title. The penultimate track on their debut album “Homework” first appears to close out the E.P. under the title “Alive(New Wave Final Mix). The sonic similarities between the two track should now be fairly obvious, but compared to its original form, this mix of “Alive” is an absolute MONSTER. Big sounding doubled kicks, stabbing synth lines and an enormous bassline close out this record on a massive note and shows us the full potential that Tom and Guy-Man had right from the get-go. The E.P. was also released on Italy’s UMM records and is not impossible to find. This is one release every serious fan or collector of Daft Punk music should own, or at the very least, listen to so they can experience what it was like to hear the first tunes to come from these legendary producers.