15 years of Discovery

15 years ago this weekend, Daft Punk released their 2nd full-length studio album Discovery on the world and the world has never really been the same since, the dance music world anyway.

After transforming dance/house/electronic music as we know it with their landmark debut LP Homework, many fans were expecting a sequel of sorts for their sophomore release.  When the first single “One More Time” was released approximately three months before the album, it became one of the most instantly polarizing records in dance music history.  Purists were stunned by the duos foray into the world of Auto-Tune and the overall “commercialized” feel of the single.  Others thought the move to be quite brilliant, and look to it as the moment when Daft Punk truly crossed over from an underground house act to a mainstream phenomenon.  Let’s not forget that this is the record where they introduced us to their now standard robot helmet guises.

With the release of Discovery, fans now had a full-length concept album to embrace, which also served as the soundtrack to the accompanying anime film Interstella 5555:  The 5storu of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem produced by Daft Punk and legendary Japanese animator Leiji Matsumoto.  The duo spent about 2.5 years recording and developing the album and it certainly sounds like it.  To this day, I believe it is the slickest sounding purely electronic album that has ever been produced.  Every note, transition, nuance and sound is EXACTLY where it’s supposed to be with a beautiful sheen that makes the metallic font used for the album cover ever more appropriate.  Beyond the tracks released as singles, the album has wonderful moments of, yes, DISCOVERY, including “High Life”, one of my favourite DP tunes, “Voyager” and even the tongue-in-cheek 10-minute long closing track “Too Long”.  The list of guest performers is relatively short when compared to those featured on their collaboration-heavy fourth album Random Access Memories, but if that list is comprised of house legends Romanthony, Todd Edwards and DJ Sneak, clearly something is being done correctly.

Sampling made up a huge part of the record and I will not go into what was officially cleared and what was not; you may debate that among yourselves and, if necessary, use that rubbish Discovered bootleg disc which allegedly contains all the samples used.  Half of them are wrong anyway, and include tracks thought to be sampled on Homework and Human After All.  The point is, rather than simply looping samples and adding a beat to it (which they both did to great effect on their Roule and Crydamoure labels and releases), they ADDED and built songs around the samples putting their own brilliant touch to each.  They have stated themselves that this was meant to be a FUN record, paying homage to the sounds and musical styles they most closely identified with in their youth.  Indeed, it is difficult to find a moment on the album that can be described as introspective or deep and that’s fine.  What we have are 14 tunes that blend together to create a timeless listening experience and considering the lasting impact the songs have had, this may very well be the duos most instantly recognizable release.  “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” was employed to great effect in Kanye West’s “Stronger“, 6 years after its original release.  I personally can attest that “One More Time” is my most played Daft Punk song as a DJ.  Countless television and radio programs have used excerpts of the albums tracks as bumper or background music.

I won’t bother with a track-by-track review of this magnificent album.  Instead, check out the video above so you can rediscover the beauty of this important, genre-bending and ultimately satisfying release for yourself.  ONE MORE TIME.

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Cafe del Mar 2013(The Haunted Hope Remix) – Energy 52

I know it’s been a while since I’ve put anything up here, but I was blown away by how many followers and visits we’ve had since my last login!  As a token of my appreciation, here is my reworking of the all-time trance classic Cafe del Mar – Energy 52 and gave the alias I used the name Haunted Hope as that’s what came to mind when I was working with the sounds I decided to use.  Rather than peppering it with samples from the original mixes, I simply decided to replay everything from scratch to give it the feel I wanted.  It has become my most played track on Soundcloud and as everyone and their grandmere has remixed this one, I am so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to listen to it and give positive feedback.

Hopefully more to come soon, enjoy!

 

thekeytothehousemix 2012 – Mixed by DJ Shawn Austin

It’s been a great year here at thekeytothehouse so here’s my way of sending another big thank you and a little Christmas present to all of you!

This 75 minute DJ mix features many of the tracks that have been featured in my posts and reviews here on the site including:

Happy Days – P.J., Do You Know What I Mean? – Fresh Tunes #1, I’m In Love With You – B.K.S., Music Sounds Better With You – Stardust, Lovelee Dae – Blaze

I definitely wanted to give this one a classic feel, and I hope you enjoy the trip back in time including a simply incredible house re-edit of one of my all-time favourite tunes, “Why” – Carly Simon courtesy of Redondo, a duo to watch out for in 2013.  Please be sure to check out my Soundcloud page for the full track listing and more of my tunes and remixes.

I’d like to wish everyone who visits this page warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2013!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from thekeytothehouse!

DJ Shawn Austin

We’re still here!

Hey everybody,

I know thekeytothehouse has been quiet lately due to some recent time constraints that haven’t allowed me to devote the proper time to my articles here.  The final two installments in our review of Daft Punk’s Homework will be up soon and much more!  Keep checking back and thanks to everyone for helping me to crack 740 views!

Shouts and respect around the world,

Shawn Austin

 

The Greatest Electronic Album Ever Made: Homework – Daft Punk Part 1 of 4

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a self-professed NERD when it comes to my favourite musical group:  DAFT PUNK.  IMHO, they are it.  What members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have done, and are continuing to do for not just the house and electronic genres but for media in general, is nothing short of astonishing.  Over the course of their careers, these two unassuming guys from Paris, France have hidden their faces with masks, became robots because their sampler blew up, and finally re-introduced themselves and their music in one of the most entertaining live tours in the past decade.  Their videos are some of the most ground-breaking and entertaining pieces ever aired.  They broke into the movie business, starting first with their own full-length film DAFT PUNK’S ELECTROMA, followed by composing the musical score for 2010’s Tron: Legacy, which was then recorded by an 85-piece symphony orchestra.

All the while, the pair have kept their faces hidden from the world of celebrity and stardom, yet through their music, visuals and the meticulous detail put into every project the duo are involved with, they have created an image not solely based on what the group’s members looked like, but rather on letting their music, videos and live performances alone form the basis of that image.

Homework, the first full-length album from Daft Punk, was the result of great music, slick marketing, a radically different approach to how the group appeared in  photos and interviews, and the fact that the record gave “dance music” the healthy kick in the butt it sorely needed at the time.  “Da Funk” was already a huge underground and commercial hit, with its video receiving heavy rotation on MTV and other shows around the globe.  The B-side of the U.K. 12″, “Rollin’ & Scratchin'” was being hammered at European raves to the point of being overplayed.  The duo had already earned the respect of the industry and their releases through Scottish label Soma Records had been met with great acclaim.  A bidding war to sign them began, with Virgin winning out only because they agreed to the duo’s strict demands:  Daft Punk would hold exclusive rights to all master recordings, licensing the tracks on a deal-by-deal basis to Virgin, and no photographs of the group where their faces were exposed.  Initially put in the contract due the band’s shyness, it ultimately created a mystique about the group and added to the mounting buzz about seeing a full-length LP release from the French duo.

Although Homework is a concept record and also clearly an homage to Chicago acid-house, disco, breakbeat, funk and techno genres, the balance of the tracks, going from blistering, squealing synths to a laid-back, chill-out vibe, make for a listening experience that was at least 10 years ahead of its time and can still hold its own against today’s new-wave of electronic production styles.  To me, they simply got house music right with their debut effort and this is truly an album that inspired a million beginning house producers to get down to it and made house veterans to step up their game in terms of quality and consistently.

I fully expect people to criticize and disagree with my choice of greatest electronic album ever made, and that’s fine.  I’m simply offering my opinion on what I consider the best electronic album I’ve ever heard.  The album will be reviewed over four posts, one for each side of the 2×12″ release (my most revered record in my collection).  So let’s take a track-by track look at a record that came out in 1996 and still sounds as fresh and relevant as ever 16 years later:

SIDE A:

1.  Daftendirekt – “What the hell am I hearing?” is a question that I asked myself shortly after popping the CD into my player.  A very bass-heavy, filtered voice repeating “Da funk back to da punk, come on.”  In came the breakbeats giving the listener a preview of the recognizable drums used in “Da Funk”.  The beats are nice, fat and juicy and this serves as a very concise teaser of what’s to follow throughout the rest of the album.  It’s a great intro, just enough of everything before transitioning directly into…..

2.  WDPK 83.7 – A the time of the album’s release, it was not only “Da Funk” that was getting hammered, but the B-side of the U.S. 12″ single “Musique” got quite a bit of club play as well.  Taking a slightly pitched down sample of the vocal, this quick clip lets us know that this disc is ready for take off.  As if you needed a bigger clue that we’re ready to go, Thomas proudly announces with some heavy distortion, “WDPK 83.7, the sound of tomorrow, the music of today, brings to you exclusively Daft Punk’s Homework!!!”

I often wonder if the boys had any inclination about how prophetic that statement was.

3.  Revolution 909 – Hope you weren’t expecting some electronic ode to the Beatles here.  This track is not only a big “F*** you” to the French authorities who were cracking down on illegal raves throughout the country at the time, but also to any jerk who starts doing that incredibly annoying “Boom-chick, boom-chick, boom-chick…..” imitation of a “typical” house beat when you mention you like house music.  The intro replicates what you might hear if you were in a cop car about to bust an underground party.  The crowd scatters when told “Stop the music and go home.  I repeat, stop the music and go home!”

Let the revolution begin.  Some of the toughest and tightest beats ever coaxed out of a Roland-909 drum machine anchor this tune right to the floor and with an incessant groove that showcases what Daft Punk do best:  they get behind the machines and make tunes that drive the party.  The drums take the forefront here, hence the title and the layers of the groove come in and out throughout the track creating nice breakdowns and in-your-face sequences to keep things interesting.  Still great to play out to this day.

4.  Da Funk – If you were around in the late 90s, you definitely have heard this one.  But what exactly was it?  Hip-hop?  Funk?  Rock?  Techno?  This tune, considered Daft Punk’s breakthrough release, incorporates all of those styles and delivers them in a booming, funky, squelching, vocal-less masterpiece that appealed to rockers, hip-hoppers, house-heads and more.

Not only was this a hugely popular track in the clubs, but the video featured above added a whole new level of interest to not just the tune, but Daft Punk as a whole.  Conceived by acclaimed director Spike Jonze and the duo, the video functions as a mini-movie involving a human/dog named Charles who bumps into an old neighbour/past crush while walking through the streets with his leg in a cast and carrying a boombox playing “Da Funk” at high volume.  Huh?

It may not make sense on paper, but it certainly got people talking about Daft Punk, whom many were convinced was just one guy who wears a dog mask.  It was a unique approach to a debut video, but the impact spoke for itself.  “Da Funk” would go on to sell more copies than Homework itself and was the major reason that “Musique” was not included on the album, as Daft Punk reasoned that through the sales of the single, most fans already had the track anyway.  I still pull this one out all the time and this was the only track in the Alive 2007 set list that was given a standalone segment (albeit with Daftendirekt layered over top).  Even with dubstep focusing on similar tempos and sounds these days, I’ve never heard a tune that sounds quite like this.  If a band is going to introduce themselves to the world, this is one hell of a way to do it.  Check out the video if you’ve never seen it before or simply want to revisit a classic; you won’t be sorry.

5.  Phoenix – This was the track that convinced me to finally pick this album up.  I was music hunting in downtown Toronto when I heard this one and immediately asked the clerk who it was.  “Daft Punk”, she responded.  I rang up my purchase about 30 seconds later.

At that point I was already playing out “Around the World” and “Da Funk” and I was amazed to discover Daft Punk had a sound like this.  It opens with progressive layers of 909 drums, hi-hats and percussion and the introduction of a very gospel sounding vocal sample.  Throw in a very cool rolling bassline and you end up with a very slick, four-to-the-floor house track which has been a staple of my deeper house sets for years.  The arrangement makes mixing in and out very easy and demonstrates that you can pick almost any track from this album and drop it almost anywhere.  One word of advice:  avoid the Basement Jaxx remix found on “Daft Club” like the plague; it simply does not do the original any justice.

Well, that’s Side A done.  Stay tuned as we continue our track-by-track review with Part 2 coming to you very soon!  Be sure to check out the rest of the posts on thekeytothehouse, and let us know what you think!

It Shall Be(Original Mix) – Shawn Austin

Well folks, things are going beautifully here at thekeytothehouse with well over 300 page views and nearly 60 page views of our Eric Prydz presents:  Pryda review alone!  I appreciate all the support and remain grateful and humbled by it.  In that regard, I hope you all will enjoy the new track I finished up this past weekend called “It Shall Be”.  It’s a funky, techy, at times minimal tune, and I hope fans and DJs alike will give it a spin and, please, let me know how you feel about it!!!

It is available for free download and so far, has been getting a great response.  Big thanks to my Twitter superfan Frank Sinop for his compliments and for consistently supporting the blog.  Please leave your comments below on on Soundcloud and you can check out all my tunes at www.soundcloud.com/shawnaustinmusic.

Again, many thanks to all of you for the love and support.  You are always welcome in this house!

Classic House Series, Episode #6 – Let Me Show You – K-Klass

One word to describe this one back in the day:  CHOON!!!

This was one of the gems that used to keep me glued to Chris Sheppard’s Pirate Radio shows during the mid-90’s.  The main reason:  THAT PIANO LINE!!!  “Piano-house”, as it is sometimes called, had its share of moments, but this was the big one for me.  “Let Me Show You” was one of those tracks that started with a burst of energy and it simply doesn’t let up over the course of the tune.

The group known as K-Klass consists of Andy Williams, Carl Thomas, Russ Morgan, and Paul Roberts.  Williams and Thomas met Morgan and Roberts at La Hacienda in Manchester during the 80’s and decided to team up to make some house tracks.  Their gear was very basic, an SH-101 and a Tandy mixer, but this didn’t stop them from making some of the best house music of the early 90s.  The group’s first hit, “Rhythm is a Mystery”, reached number three on the UK singles chart and “Let Me Show You” hit number 13 in 1993.  Since then, they have gone on to release a slew of well received singles and albums, worked with the Pet Shop Boys on their album “Bilingual” and have produced top-notch remixes for the likes of Candi Staton, Rosie Gaines and a classic remix of “I Hate That I Love You” from Rihanna and Ne-Yo.  That one is a personal fave and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

“Let Me Show You” became a rave anthem and a subsequent crossover success.  It is a beautiful combination of a high-energy rhythm section, some powerful synth stabs, vocals from frequent K-Klass collaborator Bobbi Depasois, and the piano hook that sucked people in and never let go.  Many times have I seen a dancefloor scream and raise their hands to the air when the hook comes in and an explosion of madness when the drop comes.  K-Klass remixed and re-released the single in 1999 with a new club mix that has a speed-garage vibe and certainly can hold its own against the original.  However, it is still the original that I find myself reaching for when it’s time to give a party a good kick in the pants.

This is no doubt a seminal tune from the early-90s house era and one that deserves to be pulled out time and again for some pure dancefloor madness.