There is definitely something wrong with the fact that when I heard the distorted guitar samples that open Daft Punk’s ‘Aerodynamic’, the second single from ‘Discovery’, the seminal second studio album from the French house duo, the first name that came to mind was British grime rap artist Wiley. Wiley aka Eskiboy’s 2008 album ‘See Clear Now’ which hosted the awesome ‘Wearing My Rolex‘, a Mark Ronson collab and not much else that might be readily definable as ‘good’ has somehow become a key part of my music collection. Potentially because it was the first extended work I’d heard from Wiley and 18-year-old me was so astounded by the clash of sounds promulgated by grime, ‘See Clear Now’, in all its schizoid glory, became an indispensable feature of my library. It was thus that ‘Summertime‘, themed similar to the recent, vacuous ‘Heatwave‘ (do not watch), became indelibly associated with music that was actually Daft Punk’s to begin with. The modus operandi of grime is to unforgivingly squash genres together, expanding the audience for both appropriated and appropriator. Here, Wiley won out big time.
It’s fitting that a familiarity with ‘Aerodynamic’ came by virtue of a sample as it is disco samples from the 70s and 80s matched up with robotic, future-leaning themes that characterise the brilliant ‘Discovery’. And while I’ve never taken a holistic look at the album, personal favourites over the years have ranged from the decidedly disco, ubiquitous ‘One More Time‘ to the moodier, funkier ‘Something About Us‘ and accordingly, an association between Daft Punk house and halcyon era disco vibes has prevailed. ‘Aerodynamic’ is a different beast altogether. From the moment the bells toll at the outset, to the point they mute proceedings again at 2’20” to usher in a more down-tempo outro punctuated by accordion-style synths, there is a more obvious cinematic quality to ‘Aerodynamic’ then there is to much of the rest of the album. While those aforementioned tracks conceivably fit into the narrative of ‘Interstella 5555’, the anime film that accompanied the LP, they also function exceedingly well as standalone units. With ‘Aerodynamic’, a certain sense of theatrical staging hovers over the piece so that we’re constantly aware that this is part of a suite of tracks.
The element that perhaps most contributes to a cinematic understanding of ‘Aerodynamic’ is the high melodrama of the radical, vaguely kitsch guitar solo that tends to dominate the track. The solo has been declared to be made up of, quite appropriately, ‘impossible, ridiculous heavy metal guitar arpeggios’ which subtly reference classical, violin beginnings but simultaneously explode any notion of ‘classical’ so completely that we end up firmly on the other side of high art. The beautiful thing with Daft Punk and with sampling more generally is that plugged into the astronomical narrative that underpins ‘Discovery’ and bolstered by aural storytelling of a level rarely heard in house music, it ceases to matter that what we’re listening to is a definitively low-brow borrowing of a neo-classical-style hard rock solo. Implemented to devastating effect and totally unexpected in the midst of otherwise dance floor-ready bangers, Daft Punk’s throwback to their rock ‘n’ roll days in the fledgling Parisian band Darlin’ (alongside a now-Phoenix guitarist) reaffirms everything good about the fact that ‘nothing is new anymore’. ‘Aerodynamic’ by way of Wiley, by way of Daft Punk, by way of anime direction and brash metal guitar solos. So wrong but so right.
Daft Punk – Aerodynamic